Kevin Harris entered the 2020 season with little fanfare. That won’t be the case in 2021 as the junior back is an unquestioned superstar for South Carolina and among the best running backs in the country. Only one returning FBS rusher, Iowa State’s Breece Hall, scored more touchdowns than Harris (15) did a season ago. Harris finished last season as one of only seven backs in the FBS to run for 1,000-plus yards while averaging at least six yards per carry.
South Carolina is undergoing a reset this offseason with Shane Beamer taking over as head coach for Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks will have a new offensive and defensive scheme and dipped heavily into the transfer portal in order to bolster the roster. There are a lot of unknowns in Columbia.
Harris isn’t one of them.
As part of a preview series on the College Football Daily covering Power Five programs, 247Sports spoke with Harris last week on a variety of subjects, including where he fits among college football’s top players. The full Q&A can be found below. To follow the College Football Daily podcast, click here.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
247Sports: How would you evaluate your performance last year after you ran for 1,138 yards, 15 touchdowns and averaged 6.5 yards per carry?
Harris: “Some would say I had a great season but really, I mean, I could’ve did better. I missed some holes and stuff like that I could’ve improved on. This year there’s a lot I’m getting ready to improve on. I want to catch the ball better and stuff like that.”
247Sports: I think a lot of people just see that production of, ‘He had a great season, he must be thrilled with himself.’ How do you evaluate yourself as the season goes on while also giving yourself a little bit of credit?
Harris: “We watch film and stuff. When you watch film you try and correct your mistakes. My coach might say I did good and stuff. But it’s kind of hard for me to, like, give myself credit.”
247Sports: Why is it so hard for you to give yourself credit?
Harris: “I don’t know. I just want to do better and I’m trying to work hard to improve right now.”
247Sports: Looking back at the film from last year, what are you most trying to improve on?
Harris: “Being more patient, running my routes better, catching the ball better. I want to get faster.”
247Sports: Speed training is a really interesting process. What does that look like for you in the offseason?
Harris: “It’s a whole lot of stuff. I go during the summer when we get time off, I go back to where I’m from in Hinesville, Georgia and I speed train with my track coach. He be getting me right.”
247Sports: Obviously your track coach isn’t working with you on off-the-line releases like you would in track. How does that training carry over?
Harris: “When you in the game you just have to run really (laughs).
247Sports: Speaking of running, I think you had five touchdowns against Ole Miss. Do they start making you pay rent in the end zone when you stay there that long?
Harris: “Nah. (Laughs) I want to get seven.”
247Sports: Going back to last year, did you feel like you had something to prove? I feel like a lot of the conversation around South Carolina was about another running back coming in behind you. How do you kind of look at that? And I know you weren’t really a highly-ranked recruit. Do you ever think about that?
Harris: “Not really. Where I come from, a small town, it’s hard to get out. Only a few guys got out. All that politics and stuff, my dad always said stay out of that. I’ve got to prove myself every day, and I did that.”
247Sports: Were you expecting that of yourself last year?
Harris: “Of course. Yes. I had to get a chance. They gave me a chance and ran with it – literally.”
247Sports: When last season did you feel like you’d taken that opportunity and earned that starting role?
Harris: “Probably the Florida game. (That was my) first 100-yard game. After that I was like, ‘Dang, I can do this.’”
247Sports: I know you’re not really thinking about yourself. But one of our writers at 247Sports ranked you as the best running back in the SEC. I’m wondering is there anyone else in the conference you like watching?
Harris: “They’re gone now. But it was Najee Harris, obviously. I used to watch his games before my games and stuff like that. You stay in the hotel and the game was on. I watched. I liked Clyde Edwards-Helaire from LSU. In the NFL I like Ezekiel Elliott.”
247Sports: Going into the team element of things, how does this offense with the new staff look different than last year?
Harris: “It’s obviously different but like the run schemes and stuff are the same, at least to me. I don’t know about everybody else. It’s just minor changes and stuff. So we’re going to be good.”
247Sports: By the way, I’m just wondering: Is Luke Doty faster than you?
Harris: “(Laughs) Luke is fast. He might … ah, I don’t know. We’ve got to race. We’ll see.”
247Sports: “If y’all are in the same backfield potentially, I know that battle isn’t settled, what is that going to be from a running perspective with the option and stuff?”
Harris: “It’s going to be crazy. He can run. I can run. MarShawn (Lloyd) can run. (ZaQuandre) White can run. Rashad Amos can run. We’re stacked.”
247Sports: How would you describe what the new staff has brought to South Carolina?
Harris: “They brought … some came from the NFL, some came from different parts of the country. So you’ve got to know your stuff. You’ve got to know it. They going to teach you. But you’ve got to go out there and show them you can do it. I feel like they’re bringing some good stuff to us. It’s making us more confident.”
247Sports: I know you care about South Carolina a lot and Shane Beamer does as well. Can you describe the love he has for the school with his history?
Harris: “Oh yes. Oh yes. He (loves) South Carolina. I didn’t know he was here back in like, what, 2010. I didn’t know that. But I found out. That’s good. I know he has love for it.”
247Sports: What constitutes a successful season for South Carolina next year?
Harris: “Running the ball. Having explosive plays. We’ve got to catch the ball and score a lot of points. On defense, and I don’t play defense, we’ve got to stop the run and stop the passes. All the little things matter.”
247Sports: How do you view your place among the best running backs in college football?
Harris: Out of everybody?
247Sports: Yep, everybody. All the teams.
Harris: “Well, first off, this is the SEC. We play in the best conference in the world so I feel like of course I’m one of the best running backs in the world. I mean, I’m highly confident about that. I don’t care who wants to try and take that away from me. I’ve got that ingrained in me. I’m ready to compete with anybody.”