Indiana Daily Student

Soft-spoken receiver finding his voice

Freshman J-Shun Harris II carries the ball in IU's game Saturday against Bowling Green at Doyt Perry Stadium.
Freshman J-Shun Harris II carries the ball in IU's game Saturday against Bowling Green at Doyt Perry Stadium.

Most of J-Shun Harris’ goals for spring football practice were fairly common.

The sophomore receiver wanted to sharpen his routes. He wanted to be more in sync with senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld. He wants to limit his drops.

Those are the types of goals on all the Hoosier ?receivers’ lists.

But then there’s Harris’ less common goal. One he made after a constructive criticism session with teammates.

“You know, I need to get louder,” Harris said. “I know I really need to step up in that aspect. That was one of my negatives, so now I’m ?embracing it.”

Harris is IU’s leading returning receiver, having caught 18 balls for 168 yards in 2014. He’s expected to be the No. 1 option in the slot for the Hoosiers in 2015, likely getting even more snaps there now that Shane Wynn has ?graduated.

Although he learned from Wynn last season, Harris’ low-key personality foils that of the extroverted Wynn.

Wynn was never afraid to talk and seemed to enjoy the spotlight. Harris prefers to work quietly. Sometimes too quietly, he admits.

Harris isn’t about to become as vocal as Wynn any time soon, but he is working to find his voice now that spring practice has begun. He wants to make sure he’s leading his teammates vocally as well as by example.

“He’s definitely getting rowdier, you can see that,” fellow sophomore receiver Simmie Cobbs said. “He’s trying harder to bring that to his game. He’s already got the athletic ability, the physical part of the game. That voice would help that leadership role.”

IU offensive coordinator Kevin Johns remains more concerned about Harris’ play, but even he said he’s noticed subtle differences in Harris’ leadership.

Johns said it’s still not quite natural for Harris yet, but added that it will come with time. The good news for Harris is that he’s already got the talent to back up anything he says.

“He’s just typically a quiet kid, but what happens is leadership is best coupled with performance,” Johns said. “He’s going to have a voice regardless of whether he wants it or not, so we’re trying to get him to expose it in the ?right way.”

Harris has already been showing off the gains he made in the offseason in practice.

IU Coach Kevin Wilson tweeted that the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Harris is benching 315 and squatting 455 pounds. He was clocked running a 4.37 40-yard dash and has a 10.05-foot broad jump.

Harris said he’s already reaping the benefit of adding 10 pounds of muscle during the winter. He said his extra weight on an already small frame helps him maneuver around 230-pound linebackers and linemen sometimes more than twice his weight.

“You’d be surprised just how different it is,” Harris said, laughing. “I’m a lot stronger than last year. Now it’s not (linebackers) trying to go through me or push me back, it’s more of a firm, ‘OK. We’re standing here together now. I’m with you.’”

Harris said he and his fellow young receivers know just how important they’re going to be to the success of IU’s 2015 season. The passing game fell short of its goals last year. That’s something they don’t want happening again.

If doing that means the normally reserved Harris needs to become more vocal, so be it.

It may have been a weakness during constructive criticism months ago, but he intends to make it a strength by the time IU needs him.

“We haven’t said many words, we just know,” Harris said. “We have it in our minds that, ‘Hey, it’s our time. It’s time to step up. We gotta go and it’s time to roll.

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