ECU's Harris feels good about draft chance

Staff WriterApril 28, 2011 

Dwayne Harris recently ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash for NFL scouts.

In 2010, he rushed 16 times for a 6.5-yard average and had 101 pass receptions for 1,123 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also completed two of three pass attempts, including a TD toss of 39 yards. And he averaged almost 12 yards on 19 punt returns and 21 yards on 41 kickoff returns.

But when the NFL draft begins today in New York, Harris' No. 1 asset could be the fact that he played at East Carolina, according to his agent.

"That school's built a very good reputation with coaches in the NFL," said agent Tommy Sims of Atlanta. "ECU kids have been making rosters and making plays in the league.

"That may be an intangible, but it's a factor, and it's going to help Dwayne."

A 6-foot, 205-pound receiver/return specialist, Harris may be the only Pirate picked this weekend.

But Harris says the recent success of ECU products Linval Joseph (New York Giants), C.J. Wilson (Green Bay Packers) and Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans) gives him reason to hope for good news.

"No question, it's opened up some doors for me," Harris said this week. "Every team I've met with so far has talked about the program at ECU and how a lot of our guys have panned out."

Harris thinks another plus is the spread offense that Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill and his staff brought in last season. He said two teams - the Atlanta Falcons and the Dallas Cowboys - said the fact that the offense depends heavily on receivers gaining yardage after short quick passes will work in his favor.

"The new offense really helped me get better at dodging the first guy," Harris said. "I talk a lot with David Garrard [the former ECU and current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback].

"He said in the pros, it's important to make that first defensive player miss you. It buys you five or six quick yards.

"That kind of play, we ran all the time last season."

With luck, Sims thinks Harris could get selected as high as the third round.

"But if he doesn't get picked at all, Dwayne's going to be fine," said Sims, who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round in 1986. "He's quick, he's tough and he returns kicks. That's going to get him into games fast, no matter where he winds up."

Other than Harris, the Pirates may not have a draft pick this weekend.

ECU running back Jon Williams and offensive lineman Willie Smith could land free-agent tryout contracts.

Rising senior quarterback Dominique Davis could be among the top prospects in the 2012 draft.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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