Linebacker Harris shines as DSU seeks first win

Malik Harris (42) makes a tackle against Morgan State. Harris leads the DSU defense in tackles this season. (Delaware State News file photo)

Malik Harris (42) makes a tackle against Morgan State. Harris leads the DSU defense in tackles this season. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — Kenny Carter’s face lights up at the sheer mention of Malik Harris’ name.

“I love that kid,” says the Delaware State coach.

And there’s good reason for that affection.

Harris, a sophomore linebacker, has been a tackle machine for the Hornets. He is second in the MidEastern Athletic Conference with 55 tackles through the first five games.

That total also has Harris tied for 11th in all of FCS football.

“He’s a good football player,” Carter said. “I’ve been around some really good linebackers and he’s as good as a lot of them.”

“I don’t think theres a better LB at this level,” Carter added.

After rotating in and out of the starting lineup as a freshman, Harris said he dropped some weight during the offseason which he credits for his high numbers along with new defensive coordinator Jamie Bryant.

“I came back ready to run more,” Harris said. “I’m more versatile now.”

“It’s understanding the scheme,” he said about his tackles. “Our defensive coordinator is putting us in position to make plays. Coach Brown always gives us a good gameplan so we just have to go out and execute it.”

While Harris didn’t always start as a freshman, he still appeared in all 12 of the Hornets games a year a go.

He finished 2013 with 32 tackles, a number he passed just three games into this season. He has had double-digit tackles in all of the Hornets’ games this year except last week’s contest at Hampton. His season-high is 14 against Kent State in the second week of the season and also has an interception.

“He understands what we’re doing systematically, great effort guy and hes gifted physically,” Carter said. “He really is a sound tackler and plays with fundamentals.”

Harris helps lead a DSU defense unit that has slowly but surely improved over the course of the season.

The Hornets have held their opponents to the lowest scoring output of the season in back-to-back games. Two weeks ago DelState held Morgan State to 26 points a year after the Bears scored 69 against them. The Hornets followed that effort up by allowing 21 points to Hampton.

The only problem is those defensive efforts still have not been leading to victories.

The winless Hornets (0-2 MEAC, 0-5 overall) have their best chance yet to give Carter the first victory of his career this week with a trip to Florida A&M. The Rattlers haven’t won a game yet either at 0-3 in the MEAC and 0-6 overall.

Florida A&M has something else in common with the Hornets. The Rattlers also have a new coach this season, Alex Wood, who has yet to win at the college level.

“We’re very much in the same boat trying to rebuild some things and get our programs on track,” Carter said. “We’re both making sure our teams will be prepared and ready to go.”

One thing that will help the Hornets get off the losing streak is a better performance in the red zone, something Carter touched on during this week.

The Hornets had the ball in the red zone four times last week at Hampton, but only came away with one touchdown in the 21-6 defeat. They also missed a pair of field goals.

“We left too many points on the field,” Carter said. “You’ve got to finish. We talk to our kids all the time about scoring in the red zone and you cannot come away without points in those opportunities.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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