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Featured player: DuJuan Harris

A new Bears coach means standout running back DuJuan Harris is back in the spotlight.

By DAVID MURPHY
Published August 25, 2006


BROOKSVILLE - No more Wing-T.

That's the first thing DuJuan Harris thought when he heard Greg Bigham was leaving Central after one season as coach.

No more wing back.

No more wacky formations.

No more three-carry games against arch-rivals like Springstead.

"It's finished," Harris says with a smile.

Finished.

For whatever reason, Central football and Bigham did not work out. After going 8-2 in 2004 under coach John Wilkinson, the Bears fells to 5-5 in 2005.

Along the way, they were plagued by various mini-controversies, from the benching of senior quarterback Gary Owen at halftime of the Homecoming game to the suspension and subsequent transfer of star offensive lineman Andy Leavine.

Then, in late March, less than 40 days before the start of spring practice, Bigham surprised everyone by stepping down and accepting a job in his native state of Arkansas.

Nobody was more affected by the tumultuous year than Central running back DuJuan Harris, a speedy senior who benches 350 pounds and this offseason ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at a Florida State camp. Though listed at just 5 feet 8 and 185 pounds, Harris oozes star potential and has an excellent shot at earning a Division I scholarship (the University of South Florida, he says, is a strong possibility).

Despite playing with a fever in Central's spring game against Dunedin, he broke off a 65-yard touchdown run that prompted opposing players to start calling him "Baby Bush," in reference to former Southern California and current New Orleans Saint Reggie Bush.

But Harris never found a home in Bigham's Wing-T offense.

Though he made brilliant plays, the majority of the times he did touch the ball - in a Week 3 win over Crystal River he rushed for more than 20 yards on each of his first three carries; later in the season, he added a 90-yard kickoff return and a 75-yard punt return - he wasn't used like a feature back.

He tallied 20 carries in a game just once (he also rushed for 156 yards that game), and three times had fewer than six carries.

This year, that won't be the case, at least not if the man sitting behind the desk in the Central football office is to be believed.

Cliff Lohrey, an assistant at Central the past three seasons, succeeded Bigham. A former player at Crystal River, Lohrey is a personable, enthusiastic coach who says he is determined to build the Bears into a winning program.

He says his No. 1 priority since taking over has been rebuilding his players' enthusiasm for football: enthusiasm that easily could have been tempered by the Bears' roller-coaster season and their coach's departure.

"It's been a long time since the kids were enthused about just playing football and worrying about the stuff that sometimes comes with it that the coaches have to worry about," Lohrey said.

After taking over for Bigham in April, Lohrey installed an I-formation attack that features Harris as the workhorse. The goal, Lohrey says, is to find ways to get the ball in Harris' hands and let him make plays. In the spring game, the running back even lined up under center a few times.

"It's not a secret," said Lohrey, who added he can see Harris getting between 25 and 30 carries per game. "We obviously have to get the ball in his hands. He's got the potential to have a really special season.

"But he and I have talked, and he knows that potential doesn't mean anything. A lot of people had potential.

"(He and I) talked about how good players can do things when people don't necessarily know what's coming. Great players can do things even when (the opponent) knows the ball is going to be in their hands."

And, Harris will be happy to know, the ball will definitely be in his hands.