Defensive tackle Kris Harley says it point blank, without hesitation: he had a bit of an ego coming in to Virginia Tech last year, and probably needed the redshirt the Hokies gave him to fall in line.
“I guess I was really big-headed, so I had to humble myself,” he said. “It was really tough. I didn’t want to redshirt, but it was good for me, though.”
Armed with a new attitude and a slimmer frame, Harley thinks he’s in a better position to compete for playing time this season.
Many thought that would happen right away last year. A four-star recruit from Warren Central High in Indianapolis, Harley was one of the top-rated signees in the Hokies’ 2011 class, one who had offers from over a dozen schools, including Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Stanford.
But he arrived at Virginia Tech out of shape. When playing time presented itself for a rookie on the defensive line because of injuries, it was Corey Marshall and Luther Maddy who filled the role.
“It was a big wake-up call, because it changed my work ethic,” Harley said. “I’ve got a lot better work ethic right now, because it woke me up. It’s like, I’m not as good as I thought I was. So I had to work harder.”
“He’s made great improvements,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said.
Harley dedicated himself to getting in shape. He’s 285 pounds now, down from 295 at his peak, and cut his body fat by 6 percent. He got there by changing his diet.
“Just eating healthier,” Harley said. “It’s really common sense. Just cut out the dumb stuff. I love them West End wings.”
Harley, who hopes to work his way into what is becoming a deeper rotation at tackle, isn’t shy about talking on the field. He let an offensive player or two know about it after he made a play in last Saturday’s scrimmage. And he made several, finishing with four tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks.
“That’s how I play,” he said. “That’s me my whole life. I play with a lot of emotion. I talk a lot. And I do back it up, so I can talk.”