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Friday, October 20, 2017

Charles Harris preps for 2016 season amid NFL Draft buzz

Charles Harris: “I don’t even care about that stuff. I might not be leaving next year, you never know what’s going to happen.”

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Preseason all-SEC selection Charles Harris practices on Aug. 23.

Peter Baugh/Senior Staff Photographer

On a dreary Tuesday afternoon, defensive end Charles Harris looked wide awake. The junior paid close attention to his coaches. He led a line for stretches. He nodded his head and sang along to the music blaring over the loudspeaker.

Three NFL scouts watched.

Harris has emerged as a star on the Missouri defensive line. He earned all-Southeastern Conference honors as a sophomore, starting all 12 games and racking up 56 tackles. Recent NFL mock drafts predict that he will go in the top 10 picks of the first round.

Despite the hype, Harris says he is focused on the upcoming season.

“I don’t even care about that stuff,” he said. “I might not be leaving next year, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Though Harris may be tuning out the draft talk, his teammates have noticed his potential. When asked how high in the draft Harris could go, senior teammate Aarion Penton said, “The sky is the limit.”

“He gets our fire going a lot,” Penton said. “Whenever we need a big play, he’s shooting off the ball and back at the quarterback in a matter of 1.5 seconds … that’s the stuff that gets our blood boiling and our intensity level up.”

Penton also feels that the pressure Harris and the Tigers’ defensive line put on the offense will lead to quarterbacks lobbing the ball, allowing for more interceptions.

Coach Barry Odom said the junior is “playing at a different level than he did last year.” Odom and his assistants did not speculate on Harris’ draft potential, but they are optimistic about his future.

“I hope he’s a high draft for the Missouri Tigers next year,” Odom said. “I want him to have a great year. He works extremely hard, is a great kid and has a bright future. If football is involved with it, he’ll have a tremendous career, and if it’s not he’ll have a tremendous career in his line of work. But I’m expecting him to have a really big year.”

DeMontie Cross, Missouri’s defensive coordinator, said the team will focus on the draft after the season is over.

“We want to make sure he’s the best Tiger he can be first and help us win ball games, but obviously the young man is wired the right way,” he said.

While Harris and his coaches have remained quiet about the draft, national media has taken notice of his potential. NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Harris has outstanding “instincts, technique and power.”

While Jeremiah commented on areas Harris could improve — his flexibility and fluidity, for example — he praises the defensive end’s natural instincts.

Harris said he is focusing on what he can control. He wants to make every tackle that comes his way and win every one-on-one matchup he’s faced with. With this mentality, he seems to be set for another strong season.

“Can’t nobody put no expectations on me besides myself,” he said. “I got my own goals in sight.”

Edited by George Roberson | groberson@themaneater.com

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