Harrison right choice for multiple roles on Missouri football team

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 | 4:57 p.m. CST; updated 10:13 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Senior safety Jarrell Harrison dives to tackle Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Boyles during the first quarter of the Homecoming game on Oct. 23 at Faurot Field.

COLUMBIA — Jarrell Harrison is taking it all in stride.

The senior safety, who moved to linebacker in the Missouri football team's game against Kansas State, has been making adjustments at his position ever since. With Will Ebner still out for the Iowa State game, Harrison planned to spend time at linebacker again, but with fellow safety Jasper Simmons’ suspension from the team, Harrison’s role changed again. Shuffling back and forth from safety to linebacker has worked out well for Harrison and the Tigers, though, something Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said is a direct result of the senior’s mental abilities.

Saturday's game

No. 15 Missouri (9-2, 5-2)
vs. Kansas (3-8, 1-6)

WHEN: 11:40 a.m.
WHERE: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
TV: Fox Sports Net
Missouri has won three of its past four games against Kansas, including two of the past three played at Arrowhead Stadium. A victory would give Missouri a 10-win season for only the fourth time. The Tigers also had 10 victories in 1960 (11-0), 2007 (12-2) and 2008 (10-4).


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“He is very football smart, and his instincts are very, very good,” Pinkel said. “I don’t think just the average player, and I mean with good ability, but without the instinct, could do that. You have to be really, really sharp, and he is.”

Against Iowa State, Harrison spent some time at safety and some time as a displaced linebacker in the nickel formation, and he said that the adjustment wasn’t hard. Although he hadn’t played safety in practice all week, Harrison has been playing the position for so long that he said it only took him a split second to adjust.

“I was practicing linebacker all week and didn’t get any safety reps, but I just hopped back there and did what I do,” Harrison said.

The only difference, he said, is being able to focus on different keys at each position. When he moved back to play safety, he had to widen his vision of the field instead of only reading the linebackers’ keys.

Fellow safety Kenji Jackson said he thinks Harrison was happy to get more time at safety, but that he’s added a lot to the team at linebacker. 

“He fits in well in the linebacker spot, and I don’t think he was a detriment to our defense in any way,” Jackson said.

Jackson rolled his eyes at the idea of Harrison being an easy target at linebacker. Although Harrison said last week that he thought Iowa State, after watching video and hearing that he usually plays safety, might come after him, Jackson said that was not the case on Saturday.

Harrison agreed that he didn’t notice any different treatment.

“When I was down in the box, they ran it my way a few times, but I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary,” Harrison said.

Harrison said he is looking forward to the game against Kansas, but he still doesn’t know what his role will be. Pinkel said he thinks Harrison will split time between the nickel formation and true safety again, but a lot remains to be seen. Harrison smiles when he says he has no idea what the game plan will be, which says a lot about why he is the player Pinkel chose to make the switch.

“He’s got a remarkable attitude,” Pinkel said. “He’d play defensive end if you needed him to.”

Jackson agreed. He said that though Harrison has always added a lot to the Missouri defense, his recent play has proven just how valuable he is. At first, Pinkel said the switch to linebacker was certain, but last week’s events showed that you can never count on anything. Safety, linebacker — none of it matters to Harrison as long as he is helping the Tigers.

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