NORMAL — When NFL scouts come to Illinois State to speak to senior cornerback Davontae Harris, Harris has questions as well as answers.
“Whenever I talk to them, the first question I ask is ‘what did you see on film I can get better at,’” Harris said. “I try to take at least one or two things from each scout. Most of them say similar things.”
Scouts have been looking intently at Harris, who is looming as a possible draft pick next spring.
“He’s getting a lot of attention. He fits the measurables of an NFL cornerback,” said ISU coach Brock Spack. “He obviously runs well. He’s physical. He’s very intelligent. He’s got the total package.”
A preseason All-American, Harris has one interception and 15 tackles thus far for the 4-0 Redbirds, who travel to Flagstaff, Ariz., for a 6 p.m. (Central) nonconference game Saturday against Northern Arizona.
Harris said he has heard from all 32 NFL teams. He is ranked as the No. 11 senior cornerback in the nation by nfldraftscout.com and is projected as a fifth-round draft pick.
“In order to take advantage of the opportunity, you have to be ready for it,” Harris said.
According to ISU defensive backs coach Cody Deti, Harris’ attention to detail has improved in his years as a Redbird.
“His focus is better on doing the little things correctly,” said Deti. “We like corners with length who can change direction with good speed. He’s also tough. You’ve got to be able to tackle and play in the run game as well as cover.”
Harris is on the watch list for both the Senior Bowl and the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given to the top defensive player in FCS.
“He’s been a great teammate, a great representative of our program,” Spack said. “He’s never been on a (disciplinary) list here, and he’s well above 3.0 in GPA (grade point average)."
A native of Wichita, Kan., Harris played at Wichita South High School. ISU’s other starting cornerback, sophomore Willie Edwards, attended Wichita East.
“Davontae has been real influential in my life,” said Edwards. “It’s like having a big brother type figure to guide me.”
Deti believes Harris’ presence has accelerated Edwards’ development.
“Davontae has been through the growing pains, and he’s able to illustrate to Willie what you need to do at this stage of your development,” Deti said. “Willie is ahead of where he would have been if Davontae wasn't here.”
Harris, who topped the Missouri Valley Football Conference in passes defended last season, considers mentoring Edwards as much a part of his job as shadowing receivers.
“He’s gotten a lot better and matured a bunch. He’s taken some really big steps,” said Harris. “I’ve made it my mission to take him under my wing and make sure he’s good when I leave.”