Early Entry Review: IMG experience helped prepare Harris for Florida football

Early Entry Review

by Alyssa Britton-Harr
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Florida freshman offensive lineman Knijeah Harris grew up in Port St. Lucie but transferred to Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy to play his high school football at the highest levels, and in turn learn the skills needed to help ease the transition from high school to college football.

From being away from home, living in a dorm, to keeping to a schedule and being responsible for yourself without your parents readily available – being at IMG is a trial run for what college life is like.

Ascenders’ offensive line coach Lee Grimes feels as though his experience at IMG helped prepare Harris for immediate success at Florida.

“IMG for sure helps players get ready for college life,” said Grimes. “Our players here are from all over the US, and the world. Having a good mixture of cultures around you, while living in the same dorm definitely helps you when you get to college. It also forces players to mature and grow up and learn to keep a schedule, be at places when they are supposed to be there, etc…”

Harris’ transformation began last spring when he started to take strength and conditioning seriously. He started changing his body composition over the summer and fall and continued that trend over his first few months in Gainesville.

“Harris was a bit overweight, but we talked about how his body would progress over the year,” Grimes said.

According to Grimes, Harris currently weighs in at 322 pounds.

“I have been talking with Rob Sale since Knijeah got there in January, and seeing the way his body has transformed even more since he got to Florida, he has lost probably 15-20 pounds, and he looks great,” Grimes said.

However, despite Harris having to transform physically, he was ahead of the curve in understanding the game and getting the plays down quickly.

“Learning the offense that we came and put in [at IMG] wasn’t a problem for him, physically he knew what to do and was very technically sound; he just had to improve a little bit on his footwork and weight, and he did a great job of that,” Grimes said.

Grimes said that the way he teaches offensive line technique at IMG is similar to what Harris is learning at Florida.

Harris has worked with Sale and Darnell Stapleton within his five months in the program, and his ability as a freshman to pick up on the offense and understand the schemes being taught is probably the most significant learning curve for most freshmen to overcome, Grimes said.

“You don’t just walk into an SEC school and get reps unless you can handle the physical and mental. So with his work, it was not surprising that he was taking reps,” Grimes said.

Harris saw time with the first team over the spring mostly due to projected starter Micah Mazzucca sitting out with an injury.

However, regardless of how it came about, it still allowed him to have the opportunity.

The summer phase of the offseason program is another opportunity for Harris to continue to work with hopes of seeing some game reps in the upcoming season.

“Knijeah is always going to be ready, he can play all five positions, and he is going to know what to do every single play,” Grimes said. “Everything I have talked with him about has been positive. He has enjoyed the Florida offense and said it was easy, which I always want to hear when guys go into that level of transition.”

He has already done enough to this point to impress the Florida coaching staff.

“The Florida coaches are very pleased with Knijeah this spring. He’s like having a coach on the field even as a freshman. He is very mature for an 18-year-old young man and they are expecting a lot from him in the next four years.”

Photo courtesy Knijeah Harris Twitter

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