Mac Harris will start his senior year at The Villages High School with a big decision already in the books – he’s planning to play college football for the University of South Florida.
Harris, who is listed as a three-star recruit on 247, verbally committed Saturday to play defensive back for the Bulls and head coach Charlie Strong. The 2018 VHS Player of the Year had drawn the attention of many schools for his outstanding abilities and leadership as a member of the Buffalo football team, including Tulane University, Florida International, Virginia, Georgia State University and Rutgers, to name a few.
Last season, Harris, playing quarterback, led VHS to an 11-1 record and the Class 4A Region 2 title. He completed a respectable 53 percent of his passes for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. And he also ran for more than 1,300 yards and 24 TDs.
On the defensive side of the ball, Harris played free safety and was involved in 120 tackles – 37 of them solo. He also broke up 15 passes and tallied three interceptions, according to USF’s The Daily Stampede.
Clearly, it was that defensive prowess that drew the interest of USF and Strong, a defensive guru who led Louisville to a 2013 Sugar Bowl title and was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida under coaches Ron Zook and Urban Meyer.
At 6-foot-2-inches tall and weighing 200 pounds, Harris is expected to easily make the full-time transition to free safety from quarterback. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, so it appears clear that Strong and company are looking for speed in the backfield with the signing of Harris – one of many incoming players who are part of the school’s top-40 recruiting class.
“Harris has an incredible ability to read and recognize plays, being able to pinpoint exactly where the opposing QB is going to look,” the Stampede write-up says. “His speed and athleticism allow him to break on a ball quickly and make clean tackles.”
On Saturday morning, Harris offered thanks via Twitter for the opportunities he’s had.
“Thank you to the colleges that have been recruiting me and showing me love throughout my recruiting process,” he wrote. “Thank you to my family, teachers, friends, and coaches for the love and support.”
Strong, who played defensive back at Central Arkansas, was fired by the University of Texas in November 2015 after compiling a 16-21 record over three seasons. But the two-time Big East Coach of the Year enjoyed great success as head coach at Louisville and is showing signs of duplicating that success at USF.
As the coach of the Cardinals, Strong tallied a 37-15 record and competed in bowl games all four seasons, including the shocking Sugar Bowl upset in 2013 over Florida, which was a two-touchdown favorite. And at USF he’s compiled a 17-8 record, bringing his overall head coaching record to 70-45.