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Alabama’s Christian Harris Still Has Room to Grow at Linebacker

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Christian Harris

INDIANAPOLIS — On the surface, it might seem a bit ridiculous for a player who served as Alabama’s Will linebacker as a true freshman to say he’s still got a long way to grow. But given Christian Harris’ history, the claim makes a lot more sense.

After all, he’s only played the position for three years after alternating between cornerback and safety in high school. And with what he showed in the SEC, he could bring huge upside to an NFL team as his knowledge and vision of the field progresses.

“I don’t think (my knowledge) is terrible, and I’ve definitely gotten a lot better since my freshman year,” Harris said. “I’ve only played the position for three years, so I’m going to continue to develop.”

So far, he’s developed into a projected second-day pick who could fill the Steelers’ glaring need for a three-down linebacker. Pittsburgh appears to have genuine interest, as Harris confirmed that he’s met with both the Steelers and Washington.

If he were to land in Pittsburgh, there would be one big similarity to his time at Alabama right away: going up against running back Najee Harris in practice.

“Najee is a real competitor, and when I was starting as a freshman, I had to go up against him every day,” said Christian Harris, who said he hasn’t spoken with Najee Harris about the Combine process. “That was tough most times, but he definitely helped me with my confidence and becoming a better player for sure.”

If there’s one thing Harris doesn’t lack, it’s confidence. When asked to compare himself to a current NFL player, he chose San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner, widely considered to be the best coverage linebacker in the game.

“He plays sideline to sideline, does really well in coverage and he’s a leader of the defense,” Harris said. “That’s what I’m trying to do myself as well; I really idolize myself after him, because he’s a really great player.”

When the subject is coverage skills, the comparison seems fairly apt. One of the defining plays of his 2021 season came against LSU, when he read quarterback Max Johnson’s eyes from the beginning of the play and tipped the ball at the right moment, sending it into the waiting arms of Jalyn Armour-Davis to set up the Crimson Tide’s offense for a critical touchdown to close out the first half.

“A lot of those things come natural,” Harris said. “I was playing corner from ninth grade to 12th grade and in my little league years, I was playing safety, so knowing where to put my eyes and how to play the ball comes naturally to me. I think that gives me an advantage over a lot of guys; I just have to transition that into focusing on how read keys and blocks.”

One thing Harris won’t have a problem with is putting in the work needed to make that transition. After three years of playing for Nick Saban and competing against some of the best athletes at the college level in that environment, he’s well-prepared for the grind of trying to earn a job in the NFL.

“I treat it like a business, because that’s what it is at the end of the day,” Harris said. “You expect it to be hard, and that competitive nature has to come naturally, because it’s so hard to coach that.”

Click for more coverage from Alan Saunders, Nick Farabaugh and Dan Angell, live from Indianapolis at the 2022 NFL Combine.

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