The fireworks started a little bit early.
Javen Harris, one of UCF's top defensive recruits, announced his pledge to the Knights on the Fouth of July. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound middle linebacker from Eufaula, Ala. is the Knights' ninth overall commitment in the Class of 2009.
Harris said he loved everything about the school as well as the direction of the program, but it was the coaching staff that sealed the deal for him.
"I liked the relationship I had with the coaches, especially Coach Geoff Collins," Harris said. "I had known him since he was at Alabama and he kept recruiting me at UCF. I had built a strong relationship with him and I also really like Coach George O'Leary."
Harris was offered by the Knights shortly after Collins' arrival in February an he visited the campus for UCF's second Junior Day in April. He was able to see the school then and also saw a scrimmage during spring practice.
"I was really impressed by the campus and the stadium," Harris said. "Everything is brand new. Like I said, I really liked the coaching staff and they let it be known they really wanted me. It's a family atmosphere there. They treated my family great when we went down there. They made me feel like it's a place I can call home. Orlando is also a great city."
He felt the time was right to go ahead and make that decision.
"I think the coaches expected me to commit, but I don't know if they knew I was going to do it now," Harris said. "I ended it because I knew where I wanted to go."
His family is very supportive of the decision.
"The first thing they always mention is how well they were treated by the coaches when we went on that visit," Harris. "They know it's a family atmosphere and they really like that."
Harris, who is thinking about majoring in engineering, spoke with a trio of coaches to make the commitment. He first spoke with Coach Collins, then Coach O'Leary and also chatted with defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable.
"Coach Collins would always e-mail me and say he would mention me in staff meetings," Harris said. "He made it clear they needed me. Once I talked to him and I told him I was committing, he was real glad. He said that he knows now he has a leader on defense. Since I'm a middle linebacker, I control the defense, and he said I'm going to do a great job leading the team. He was really excited."
The fact Collins is also going to be his position coach made the decision even easier.
"It really added a lot to the relationship," Harris said. "With him, I know he's going to be coaching me and from day one I'm going to know what to expect from him and what his expectations are going to be of me. That meant a lot knowing he's going to be my position coach."
Harris expects to play early at UCF.
"They've been telling me they need me now," Harris said. "They need some playmakers and I feel I can bring that. I'm looking forward to getting down there."
Eufaula is one of the most successful football programs in Alabama with the Tigers winning a total of 34 games in the last three years. As a junior, Harris recorded 95 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. He is also his team's primary running back.
"I think my best strength is going to be my knowledge of the game," Harris said. "One reason UCF said they loved me is because of my leadership. I try to get people in the right place. I know what they're doing and I know what I'm doing, which makes it easier because you can react to the ball quicker when you know what's going on before it happens."
Harris said he's always trying to be a leader because he knows that's going to be expected as a middle linebacker.
"At the college level you have to lead by example, but you also have to be a vocal leader," Harris said. "I'm always working at that and trying to get everybody involved."
To that end, Harris also wants to be a leader among UCF's recruiting class.
"I've been talking to other players since I committed," Harris said. "I'm trying to get a good relationship going with them. I'm trying to be a recruiter now because I want other players to join us."
Harris doesn't have to go very far to talk to another top UCF recruit. The Knights have also offered his teammate, outside linebacker Hans Rice, who plans to visit UCF in the coming week. Harris is optimistic about those chances.
"To be honest, there's a great possibility UCF is going to get both of us," Harris said.
Troy and South Alabama had also offered Harris, while Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Colorado were also recruiting him.
"To be honest I probably would have gotten a lot more offers had I waited, but UCF was where I wanted to be," Harris said. "There was no need to hold back when I know where I wanted to go, so I went ahead and ended it."
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