In a sport increasingly ruled by behemoths in which the prototype height for all but a few positions is 6-foot-5, little guys have to stick together. That’s why when 5-foot-8 Fishers wide receiver J-Shun Harris was looking for a school, it made a difference that Indiana already has a player like him and knows how to use him.
The presence and success of the 5-foot-7 junior wide receiver Shane Wynn was a significant factor for Harris, who verbally committed to Indiana this week after de-committing from Ball State. Wynn caught 68 passes for 660 yards and six touchdowns a season ago, and will have one year of eligibility remaining when Harris gets to campus next fall.
“The stats show it all,” Harris said. “Shane was the second-leading receiver in the Big Ten last year and they had the No. 1 passing offense and the No. 2 overall offense in the league. Seeing what Shane’s done, that’s perfect for me. He’s a role model for little guys like me. He gives me hope. To be able to learn from him his senior year, it was a no-brainer for me.”
There was more to it than that. It certainly helped that the Hoosiers proved they could use a small but speedy receiver in their uptempo spread offense, but Harris, a 3.0 student, was also attracted to Indiana’s Kelly School of Business and to the direction of Indiana’s football program in general.
“Everyone seems like a family there,” Harris said. “I know that they’re working for something great and I wanted to be a part of it.”
The Hoosiers have reason to believe he can be a significant part of it because Harris has a lot of the same tools that Wynn does. The 5-foot-8, 161-pounder has been clocked at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash and at 10.93 in the 100-yard dash. He qualified for the state meet last year in the 100 meters and with a team in the 4×100-meter relay, which finished 10th.
The speed has translated to a lot of production on the field as well. He caught 38 passes for 527 yards and five touchdowns last season and 33 passes for 478 yards and four TD’s the season before. Over the last two seasons, he’s taken three punts back for touchdowns.
“He’s a very dynamic player,” Fishers coach Rick Wimmer said. “When he gets his hands on the football, he can make things happen in a hurry. He’s got a lot of wiggle in him, but he’s also got a lot of just sheer speed. He’s not just a receiver that can cut laterally, he’s got good straight line speed.”
Harris will likely be used mostly in the slot at Indiana, but at Fishers, they’ve found a number of different ways to put his speed to work.
“He’s been an outside guy and we have ways to get him in the slot,” Wimmer said. “Through the summer we’ve tried to move him around a little bit more so other teams won’t know exactly where he’s going to line up. He’s been in the outside, he’s been in the slot, he’s been on the backside of trips some. We can put him in a number of receiver situations where he can get his hands on the ball in a variety of situations. And he’s probably the best punt returner I’ve had in 30 years of coaching. He’s dynamic. He has great hands, he catches the ball and tracks the ball very well. When he gets it, he’s very good in the open field.”
Wimmer said Harris is still trying to focus on downfield blocking in the running game. Though his size will likely keep him from ever being dominant in that part of the game, it’s important to Harris that he at least be adequate. His goal is to put on 14 pounds of muscle by the time he arrives at Indiana next year.
Harris is Indiana’s eighth commitment for the Class of 2014.