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Syracuse’s Most Important Players: #4 Taj Harris

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Lyons/USA Today

Trishton Jackson is gone, and so are his 66 catches for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jackson’s departure for the NFL leaves a massive hole in the Syracuse offense, and QB Tommy DeVito without a number one option. It’s a chasm that Taj Harris has to fill. Harris had an extremely disappointing sophomore season in 2019. He had fewer catches than his freshman year, was a non-factor at times due to a lack of targets and drops, and could be seen obviously frustrated on the sideline. This has to be his bounceback year.

Why Syracuse Needs Him

The receiver room is inexperienced with a capital “I”. Only two other receivers have recorded a catch in game action (Nykiem Johnson and Sharod Johnson), and both caught under 10 passes last year. There are more questions than answers right now as to who will emerge at the wide receiver position. Harris is the only proven target in the group, with the best blend of height, speed, and elusiveness, so he better be thrust into the spotlight. According to head coach Dino Babers, DeVito and Harris have been working together ever since SU players were allowed to practice in pods of four. Their connection better be the strongest link in the Syracuse offense. Production is also needed now more than ever because Syracuse’s top two running backs are nowhere to be found

Best Case Scenario

In a perfect world, Harris quickly emerges as DeVito’s number one target. DeVito looks for Harris early and often, and they connect when it’s needed the most. Harris showcases his full skillset, burning secondaries deep with his speed, and racking up yards while breaking ankles on short catch-and-runs. New OC Sterlin Gilbert finds every way to get Harris involved. Jet sweeps, the screen game, maybe even as a wildcat quarterback (Harris played QB in high school and threw two passes last year) all are mixed in as a way to get SU’s best receiver the ball. Defenses have to pay extra attention to the junior, and it helps his inexperienced colleagues make easy catches. Harris finishes the year with upwards of 50 catches and close to 1,000 yards, and is an All-ACC consideration.

Worst Case Scenario

Harris is extremely inconsistent, and the offense goes south. He and DeVito never really click because of a lack of practice time, and Harris struggles to get open during games. His lack of mass (only 162 pounds) allows corners to bully him off of the line of scrimmage, preventing him from getting open down field. When Harris does get open, he gets antsy and drops some easy balls. The coaches stop utilizing his full skillset, forcing DeVito to rely on the bevy of untested pass-catchers. Harris begins to get down in the dumps, the Syracuse offense can’t create a big play, and the team falls flat on its face. 

Monday, September 7- #5 Josh Black 

Tuesday, September 8- #4 Taj Harris 

Wednesday, September 9-#3? 

Thursday, September 10-#2? 

Friday, September 11, #1?

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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