It's a testament to the character and resilience of the Oregon team that in each of Chip Kelly's first three years, they won a conference title with a key player suspended or dismissed for disciplinary reasons. The Ducks went 36-6 without running back LeGarrette Blount in 2009, returning starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli in 2010, and All-American returner and cornerback Cliff Harris in 2011.
In a different era, with a different coach or in a different part of the country, these three players would have been coddled through. Urban Meyer's Florida teams had 31 arrests involving 25 players. Many of those players missed no more than a half against Central State Tech, and the Gators won two national championships.
So far, Kelly recruits character and disciplines failures of character, and the Ducks have won because of it, as a team. In each of the above cases, younger players stepped up and did tremendous jobs: redshirt freshman LaMichael James, inexperienced sophomore Darron Thomas, and redshirt freshmen/true freshman Terrance Mitchell, Troy Hill and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu all took on the role of replacing a star, and did so with courage and poise.
The results were tremendous: two Rose Bowls sandwiched around an appearance in the national championship game. Kelly has said that playing football at Oregon is a right and not a privilege, that in the Duck program there are standards, and if a player doesn't want to live up to those standards, "we'll miss you, but we'll get along without you."
The Ducks have, finishing in the top rungs of college football for three straight years.
In Cliff Harris' case, the fall from grace has been painful to watch. Harris is mercurial, clever, funny and superbly talented, a quote machine that fans loved. He set a school record for punt return tds, made consensus All-American, and led the conference in interceptions and pass breakups. He did amazing things, often in big games and on national television. Kash had three of his best games against Andrew Luck (picking him twice), Matt Barkley (a key third quarter interception) and Cam Newton (a interception and long return, a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, and another interception, a phenomenal individual play, overturned by the officials).
He was electrifying to watch, but often maddening for coaches and teammates. Harris' failures weren't limited to traffic stops and weed. He practiced poorly, and freelanced on the field in ways that put teammates in bad situations. Some of his risks and gambles failed, creating big plays for opponents. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti spoke often of Cliff's need to conform and mature. That never happened. Over the Thanksgiving holiday the suspend Oregon cornerback was arrested in Fresno for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and now he's dismissed from the program, with no further chance of reinstatement.
Harris will try his luck in the NFL. From here his life can become another cautionary tale or a story of redemption. The missteps and disciplinary issues cost him thousands of dollars--before his infamous summer traffic stop, the 118 mph "we smoked it all" incident that earned him his first suspension, he projected as a first or second round NFL draft pick. Now, after an abbreviated and ineffective junior season, plagued by character issues, the 5-11, 165 lb. defensive back faces a situation where a team will have to take a chance on him on talent alone. His NFL measurables won't help him. Slight of build and not elite on the stopwatch, barely strong enough to benchpress a taco, Harris won't grade out that well at the combine in Indianapolis. He can be brilliant on the field, brain dead off it, and what he does well doesn't translate to the clipboard, the stopwatch, or the scouting report.
Someone will take a chance on him, and the hope is that Cliff will fall under the guidance of someone wise and trustworthy and straighten out his life. This isn't the place to debate the psychological and physical effects of marijuana, but one thing is clear: Harris' desire to smoke it has impaired his life and judgment, to the point he can't manage his business. And that is a damn shame.
But man, he was fun to watch, making a big play or giving the outlandish interview. His famous introduction to his teammates, telling the seniors and juniors at his first team meeting, "My name is Cliff Harris, and I am here to lock (stuff) down," was a priceless moment of personal legend. Trouble was, Cliff couldn't lock his own stuff down, and now he's in a world of trouble.
Where will he land, and what will he make of himself?
Will, DP, thank you. Best case scenario is that Harris, playing for pay, finds his game, his motivation and some guidance, and harnesses his remarkable talent. Right now he's headed in the wrong direction, more like Pacman or Cromartie than LeGarrette Blount.
I loved watching Cliff and wish him the best but have to say I regret the media focus on Cliff on the same day that LaMichael was recognized again as an All-American. Let's reward excellence with MORE coverage and put our mistakes (ok his mistakes) in the past.
Thank You LaMichael James for 3 great years! And thanks to a great senior class that has accomplished more than anyone dreamed. Now go out and win 1 more and go out in style.
While I for one am going to miss Cliff, I think it's best for the Ducks that he move on. Agreed that he flashed brilliance sandwiched between boneheadedness. With a heavy heart, I admire Chip Kelly for his seeming consistency in discipline and his "team first" attitude. I think it will pay off in the long run for Oregon. In my opinion, Cliff would have gotten a pass (or a few slaps on the wrist) by most of the other big programs out there.
My wish for Cliff Harris is that he gets his chance at the next level. But to me, he just doesn't have the size nor the speed to really excel. I have to wonder if he can show the requisite combine stats to get much of a look by NFL teams. Add in his disciplinary issues and lack of maturity and I think he is viewed as a complete risk that might earn him nothing better than a 6th or 7th round pick.
Best of luck Cliffie. Thanks for your confidence, your swagger and your personality. Hope you get a chance to "lock sh*t down" again.
on most other teams harris would still have played, think lsu this year and all its criminals??!!,, etc,, and cliff would be going to the nfl just like a million other guys, just like him,, and no one would say much one way or another,, true,, and the nfl has tons of them as well right now, and dont even mention the nba, thatd be almost an entire league of lowlife scum and thugs,,, so cliff is run of the mill really,, he just went to a school which for wose for him has a strict and serious coach who espouses personal vitue and values, and in state and school culture which seemingly has an inorinate amount of the same thinking and perspective, (contd)
If the kid can't get it together (and I'm going to call him that even though he's older than me, because he's obviously still one), then maybe a change of scenery is best. Many NFL players simply weren't cut out for college life, rules, and regulation. Hopefully his is the path of redemption, not Pacman or Antonio "Condomless" Cromartie
I really hope Cliff can get it together, he has a wealth of talent as a football player, but it seems like he's incapable of making good decisions off of it. At this point I'll consider it a victory if he doesn't wind up in jail. Troubled Oregon players, like LaGarette Blount, have turned it around and had good pro careers, let's hope Cliff can straighten up in time for the draft.
I think his only option will be undrafted free agent, I think he'll get a chance at the NFL but if he doesn't do some serious maturation before then he'll crash and burn and be out of football before he knows what happened. Good luck Cliff, we still wish you the best.
Honestly, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the Ducks have some of the highest disciplinary standards in D-1 football outside the service academies.
yeah, cliff is a pothead at least right now, in college, young partying mentality, maybe he always will, who knows, he wont be the first or last, and many have done well in terms of performnance on field and financially, mannny ramirez to you name the player,, not interested,, and cromartie has done very well on the field in the nfl and is not a bad guy, those are moral judgments of character self imposed and often hypocritical,, but so be it,, cliff went to the wromg school for him,, in the wrong town in the wrong state,, and they legalize marijuana now, tomorrow everywhere, and suddenly cliff is normal and not a thug criminal, just like a keg frat boy today,, lol.. oh the madness!! lolol,, but really think about more than your own simple moralistic selfish philosphy in consideration of the bigger world at least a little more to reflect upon, to show evidences of ,,, intelligent, maturity, ourselves???
You definitely hope he can turn it around, but at this point he appears headed for a career arc more like Onterrio Smith than LeGarrette Blount.
@Dale Newton@nyduck It's clear Chip is trying to create a culture of excellence on and off the field with the types of kids he's going after. If you look at the last couple of recruiting classes the vast majority of these kids have good reputations and 3.0+ GPAs. I think we'll see fewer and fewer kids go "off the reservation" in the future. I think it's a good thing, he may pass on some marginal but very talented players, but the kids he does bring in will work hard, follow the rules, and be willing to learn.
A perfect example of this is how the Ducks backed off of Jerrard Randall who has an overwhelming amount of talent, but struggled with his grades and test scores. Instead they went with Marcus Mariota who is very talented, but also an excellent student and a young man great character.
Unfortunately in Harris' case the marijuana use was just the beginning. Bad practice and classroom habits made the picture even worse. His on-field discipline wasn't adequate either.
@nyduck I dunno, Eugene seemed like a pretty awesome place if you were a pothead, at least when I was in school. ;) I knew about 10 guys that majored in smoking weed. I know I wouldn't want to give Cliff a big bag of money if I was an NFL team.
yeah on the eugene pothead school thing,, but really any colege town is at least as much,, but you cant be a pothead on kelly's team for sure,, thats for lsu, the sec, and 90 something percent of the other programs who will try hard to look the other way,, and give you half game and single game suspensions against appalchia state and the like,, and with zero negative consequences thereafter,, you wont miss the next game, snap, or anything,,and all will be smiles and slaps on the back, laughing and winking as you return to the field immediately.. Im sure you and lots of others also wouldnt have given, nor did really any teams, lagarrett blount any interest, wouldnt have wanted him either,, etc,, but he harris will get a chance somewhere to see if he can play nfl, and if he is good enough he will stick,, it will all be on his abilitity to play. it may be a great opportunity for some team on the cheap ,, time will tell.