Who will be “Macho”?
Macho Harris was a great football player for Virginia Tech, and it wasn’t just because he always played his assignment well, tackled well, and generally shut down the passing game on his side of the field. It was because he was a playmaker in every sense of the word. He had a knack for doing big things exactly when the Hokies needed it.
Harris had 15 interceptions during his career (third all-time behind Gene Bunn’s 18 and Tyronne Drakeford’s 16) and returned four of them for touchdowns (tops all-time). From viewing his college highlights on YouTube, he was very close to returning three more for touchdowns. He carried the ball for the Hokies, he played a little wide receiver, and he had a huge kickoff return touchdown against the Clemson Tigers.
Here’s a quick timeline of Macho’s critical plays:
Sept. 23, 2006 – Harris returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining to seal a 29-13 win over Cincinnati. It was his second interception of the game.
Sept. 1, 2007 – Harris returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown in a very close 17-7 win over East Carolina.
Oct. 6, 2007 – Harris had an interception, knocked out a Clemson wide receiver with a violent hit, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Sept. 27, 2008 – Harris had a big interception early in the game against Nebraska that he nearly returned for a touchdown. It set up Tech’s first touchdown of the game. He later returned a punt to the Nebraska 33 yard line that set up another touchdown.
October 18, 2008 – Harris returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to keep the Hokies in the game against Boston College.
December 6, 2008 – Harris forced a huge fumble at the VT 2 against Boston College in the ACC Championship Game. The play saved a touchdown.
I’m probably missing a few, but you can watch his highlights from the 2007 season below.
Need more proof that Macho was a playmaker? Here’s some. He had more defensive touchdowns in his career than the Hokies have scored as a team over the past four seasons:
Rashad Carmichael returned a couple of picks for touchdowns (one each in 2009 and 2010), as did Jeron Gouevia-Winslow in the 2010 ACC Championship Game, but that’s it. There have been no defensive touchdowns scored in the last two seasons. Tech has remained a good defensive team, but they’ve lacked that “it” factor. The only time the defense has actually scored was on that Jack Tyler safety against Florida State last season.
Tech was able to cover up for a bad offense from 2006-08 by scoring an amazing 14 defensive touchdowns during those three seasons, and to me, it was Macho Harris who stood out the most in his ability to make plays. It’s completely unfair to ask the defense to score a bunch of touchdowns, but it might be necessary if the Hokies want to seriously contend for an ACC Championship.
Who is going to make those plays for the Hokies? The guy who seems the most like the playmaking type is Antone Exum . His critical fourth quarter interceptions against UVA and Rutgers were big-time plays, and though he didn’t score a touchdown on either one, Tech would not have won either game without him. Unfortunately Exum is recovering from a torn ACL, and we don’t know when he’ll be back to 100% and in football shape.
With Exum a question mark, who is most likely to step up and play the role of Macho Harris? I’m not sure, but if such a player is found, I hope he’s accompanied by a Xavier Adibi and a Chris Ellis as well.
Will Stewart’s Take: Wow, that’s kinda depressing. To give you an idea of how that looks, click here to see the “BeamerBall” page in this year’s media guide. It lists the defensive and special teams touchdowns under Frank Beamer. It’s loaded with entries … up till 2011 and 2012, when it gets scant. And as Chris pointed out, none of the few TDs in 2011 and 2012 were defensive.
But it’s not a just a defensive playmaking issue, it’s a special teams playmaking issue, as well. Click here to see the blocked kicks by Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer. After a couple decades of blocking kicks at a prodigious rate, the Hokies have blocked just a small handful in the past four seasons (2009-2012). Two of those were PATs (so what), and the punt blocks in the last three seasons have been against Austin Peay, App. State, and a partial block against Boise State that still went 13 yards.
This isn’t a revelation. We know that game-turning plays on special teams and defense have declined drastically in the last two seasons in particular. David Wilson had two huge kickoff returns in 2010, but 2011 and 2012 were quiet on that front.
Playmakers needed. All applicants welcome. Apply at the Merryman Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.