Harris was a defensive back for Pete Carroll's USC Trojans, then spent some time in Seahawks camp before transitioning to coaching. "I’ve been in NFL rooms where guys aren’t as tuned in and locked in as these kids," he says.
As a defensive back for Pete Carroll’s USC teams from 2005-09, Will Harris was in the middle of one of the greatest runs in Pac-12 Conference history. Over a four-year period, those Trojans teams went 35-6 and appeared in four consecutive Rose Bowls.
So, yes, Harris has some familiarity with talent.
As the Washington Huskies’ new assistant defensive backs coach, Harris on Friday wrapped up his second spring practice on Montlake. Two practices in, he is not ready to make any grand comparisons of this Washington defense to those of his USC era, but he is impressed with the veteran secondary he’s now working with.
The Huskies return 10 scholarship defensive backs, including all five starters, from the Pac-12’s top-ranked defense.
“I’ve been around a bunch of groups, and I’ve had my own room, but just to see how these guys go about their business — it’s pretty special,” he said. “I’ve been in NFL rooms where guys aren’t as tuned in and locked in as these kids. It’s awesome to be part of it.”
After USC, Harris, 31, spent some time in Seahawks camp, then a season playing in the Canadian Football League.
In 2013, he got his first college coaching job at Northwestern Oklahoma State (in Alva, Okla.). From there, he moved to Humboldt State (Arcata, Calif.), then Dixie State College (St. George, Utah), before spending the past two seasons as the defensive backs coach at San Jose State.
It was while he was at San Jose State that he first met UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake when they worked together at a high school summer camp. Immediately, Harris said he felt a “fluent vibe” with Lake.
“Coach Lake, just seeing how he’s doing things and the progress he’s made, I was like, ‘Man, I would love to work for that dude,’” Harris said. “My prayers were answered.”
In January, when new NCAA legislation allowed FBS programs to add a 10th assistant coach, Harris was hired to work alongside Lake in the defensive secondary.
“He came on my radar a couple years ago,” Lake said. “I saw a guy that had a lot of energy. The players, the high school recruits really gravitated towards him. Then we brought him up for an interview and he knocked it out of the park. Really knowledgeable, really good presence to him. We’re very, very happy to have Will.”
Harris, who attended Charter Oak High in Covina, Calif., will be responsible for recruiting the Los Angeles and Dallas areas for the Huskies.
Asked about Seattle’s two “Coach Petes” — Petersen and Carroll — Harris said there are similarities with how they run a team, particularly with the level of competition in practices.
“These dudes are on point about everything,” he said. “Attention to detail is key with (Petersen), and I love that. We’re going to be fundamentally sound in everything we do.”