Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley began his session with reporters this week by announcing his new goal for this season: to have two interceptions every game the rest of the way. But maybe more notable was the warning of sorts he had for Miami quarterback Jacory Harris before he stepped off the podium Tuesday.
“Last year he threw three [interceptions]. We’re hoping to get three again this year, maybe more,” Hosley said. “It’s going to be a big game.”
Now before we go any further, it’s important to note Harris didn’t actually play in the Hokies’ 31-17 win at Miami last season. He was still recovering from a concussion he suffered against Virginia, so it was actually freshman Stephen Morris who threw those interceptions.
But Hosley’s declaration was just proof that Harris, a senior, has a stigma attached to him at this point. While he has thrown 56 touchdown passes over the years, it’s often overlooked because he also has 42 career interceptions.
“At any moment, he’s the type of player that can go off for like four touchdowns, and also sometimes he can have some bad things as well,” nickel cornerback Cris Hill said. “You just never know with Jacory Harris.”
The Hokies feature a secondary that has at least one interception in 12 straight games dating back to last season, and the unit’s best sniper, Hosley, already has a good idea for when Harris tends to throw the ball up for grabs.
“I think his mistakes come where he feels he knows it too much and he trusts his receivers to be there, and sometimes they’re not always there,” Hosley said. “He sometimes throws the ball a little blindly, he gets a little reckless sometimes when under pressure, so that’s what kind of cost them.”
In an effort to avoid any bulletin-board material, defensive coordinator Bud Foster was very brief discussing Harris on Tuesday evening, saying only that the Hokies will “have to play very well against him.” But the Hurricanes’ pro-style offense will allow Foster to use his base defense more often than the past few weeks, and it should make for some more complex blitz packages.
Even though the Hokies are coming off a disappointing loss to Clemson, Foster continues to be pleased with how his unit has progressed after struggling at times in 2010. Virginia Tech is currently fourth in the country in total defense, giving up just less than 250 yards per game.
“About time you start feeling really good about yourself, you’re gonna get your tail knocked off – it’s always what they’ve kind f known from me,” Foster said. “We’ve got to have an edge and keep a chip on our shoulder all the time because every play is a critical play, and it proved that the other day. We played a great game with the exception of three plays you’d like to have back. But that was enough for those guys to put [up] a couple [touchdowns], and we’ve got to eliminate those things.
“We’ve made big strides. We’ve had a group that took their lumps last year so to speak, but have a lot of pride and understand what our expectations are here. That’s a good thing right now because they’re playing that way and they don’t want to let each other down. That peer pressure is a good thing.”
Miami Coach Al Golden said Wednesday that he’s been impressed with Harris in the three games he has started – Harris missed the Hurricanes’ loss to Maryland to start the year because of a one-game suspension stemming from the NCAA’s investigation into Miami booster Nevin Shapiro.
The coach then listed the fact that Harris has six touchdowns and just three interceptions and ranks fourth in the ACC in passing efficiency this year. Harris is also completing more than 50 percent of his throws on third down and is the top ACC quarterback in terms of red zone efficiency.
“My relationship with him started 10 months ago. I threw everything else out,” Golden said of Harris. “He’s a young man that provides us with the leadership and line of scrimmage protocol that we need, so I’ve been very pleased with him and I’m anxious for the opportunity he has on Saturday.”
So too, it seems, are the Hokies’ cornerbacks.