Former Madison Southern running back Damien Harris is trying to help Alabama win another national title. The Crimson Tide plays Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl Saturday for a berth in the national title game against the Clemson-Notre Dame winner.
Here’s what Harris had to say at a media opportunity Wednesday:
Q. This sport is now defined so much by offense because of proliferation of the spread, rule changes that have benefits offenses. Do you see it from that perspective, that this is an offensive sport now? What’s your perspective on that?
DAMIEN HARRIS: I don’t necessarily think of it that way. I think offenses have definitely developed over time. One can say what he wants about the rule changes and things like that. That’s not really my position to comment on. But I think offenses have definitely evolved. Since I started watching Alabama football, our offense has definitely evolved. Not to take anything away from the defense, but the game on the offensive side of the ball has definitely improved, and I think that we’ve gotten a lot better.
Q. When you wrap up the game, obviously the score is be all and end all, but what is the metric that measures your success? What does your eye gravitate to?
DAMIEN HARRIS: Scoring one more point than the —
Q. If you take score out of it. If you took the score out, what could you look at — I don’t know if you ever thought about it, but what would tell you more than anything what the final result would be?
DAMIEN HARRIS: Well, if you take away scoring more points than the other team, then I don’t think any other stats matter. Ultimately as an offense we want to score one more point than the other team and worry about all that other stuff later.
Q. RPO has been such a huge weapon for you guys this year. Have you noticed that defenses have changed how they’ve defending it?
DAMIEN HARRIS: Yeah, you know, every play that we run, we look to have an option for anything, no matter what happens we’re going to have an outlet for things. No matter how a defense plays us, we want to have answers. So yeah, defenses definitely have tried a bunch of different things depending on who we play. But like I said, there’s answers to almost everything, so our offense, we’ve been clicking a lot this year, and Coach Locksley has put together the best game plan week in and week out, and he’s just done a tremendous job with putting us as an offense in position to have success, so a lot of credit goes to him, a lot of credit goes to our players for implementing the game plan, studying it throughout the course of the week, studying our opponent and going out and executing.
Q. When the option on that is to throw the football, a lot of times it’s been a quick snap to Jerry, but how much has you and the running back’s ability to carry out the fake and Tua, as well, instrumental in that play?
DAMIEN HARRIS: Well, we’re all one moving part. Everybody has to do their job. If 10 guys do their job and one guy doesn’t, then the play usually doesn’t work. From the quarterbacks to the receivers to the O-line to the running backs to the tight ends, everybody’s job is equally important, whether it’s carrying out a fake — there’s been a lot of times where you see a guy make a fake, whether it’s a running back or a receiver on a jet motion, cat motion, they’ll impact some player then another guy scores the touchdown. Everybody always sees the TD part of it, like oh, this guy made a great play, but look at the guy that made the fake, the guy that made the throw, the other eight guys that were blocking. Everybody’s job is equally important, and we’ve done a good job of playing together this year.
Q. Do you think about how you’re going to do the fake, or is it just like I’m going to run this exactly like I run it when I’m getting it?
DAMIEN HARRIS: That’s the point of it. A lot of times when you’re running RPOs you don’t know if you’re getting the ball or not, so you can’t be like, well, this is a playoff, so let me give a little half-ass fake and then walk to the line of scrimmage. We’re expecting to get the ball, and then Tua throws it, Jerry, Smitty, Ruggs, Waddle and all those guys get the ball, you see them in the end zone.
Q. Is it tough for you guys sometimes you don’t know if you’re going to get the ball and you don’t want to obviously cause a fumble? How does that transition work when he’s putting the ball in and pulling it out, when to clamp down and when not to clamp down?
DAMIEN HARRIS: Practice, a lot of practice. Quarterbacks, running backs, we work on meshes, handoffs, ball control, all that stuff every day at practice because it’s an important part of our offense as a ball handler. We just get a good feel for each other. We work with all the quarterbacks, receivers, different running backs, and we just go about our way so that in the game we don’t have those situations where I don’t know if I was supposed to grab the ball or if I was supposed to let go.
Q. When you look at the Oklahoma defense so far, what stands out?
DAMIEN HARRIS: I think they’ve got a lot of guys in the back end that can make a lot of plays. Their front seven is tough. We’re not getting in this whole narrative that they don’t have a good defense. I don’t care how good their offense is. If they didn’t have a good defense they wouldn’t be in the playoffs. We’re not buying into that narrative. I’ve already been asked about that today. Obviously they have a notable defense to be one of the top four teams in the country, so we’re just focused on how we can be the best version of ourselves on Saturday, and Coach Locksley has given us a great game plan and it’s up to us to go out and execute.