Harris will attend Fork Union Military Academy for a year to improve his academics before attempting to enroll again in college, a long-rumored decision that was finalized in the last week.
“He’s got a really good test score, but he didn’t have a great semester in the classroom, so he came up a little short,” said Hokies running backs coach Shane Beamer, who was Harris’ primary recruiter.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder from Downingtown East High in Exton, Pa., was considered one of the jewels of Tech’s 2012 signing class. He ran for 4,977 yards and 36 touchdowns in a high school career that was cut short by a knee injury his senior season.
A four-star recruit, Harris was ranked the No. 9 running back nationally by 247 Sports. Virginia Tech beat out a host of big-name schools, including Miami, Michigan, Penn State, West Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina to get his commitment last September and sign him in February.
Harris expressed optimism about coming to Tech this summer while visiting one of the Hokies’ spring practices, saying he hoped to enroll in July and play right without redshirting.
“I like to model my game after Adrian Peterson,” he said. “I wouldn’t consider myself a straight power back. I feel like if you’re a power back, you’re pretty limited. And I don’t think I’m limited.”
Harris and Williamsburg wide receiver Thomas Smith are the only two players in the class expected to prep for a year. Both will be at Fork Union.
Although Harris signed with Virginia Tech in February, his recruitment is technically re-opened.
“We’re optimistic that he’ll be coming back to Virginia Tech when all is said and done,” Beamer said.
The Hokies still have several other running backs in their 2012 signing class. J.C. Coleman, from Chesapeake, enrolled in January and went through spring practice.
Chris Mangus, a speedster from Raleigh, N.C., is the other player who will play running back for sure. Trey Edmunds, a talented two-way player from Danville, still could wind up on either side of the ball.
“Trey might have gotten a look even if Drew was there, so it’s something that we’ll see when practice happens in August,” Beamer said.
The Hokies have a large but inexperienced pool of running backs vying to replace David Wilson, who was a first-round pick by the New York Giants after breaking Tech’s single-season record with 1,709 rushing yards as a junior.
In addition to redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, who established himself in the spring as frontrunner for the job, and converted fullback Martin Scales, the Hokies get junior Tony Gregory back following offseason knee surgery.
“He’s pumped,” Beamer said. “He’s been working hard in the weight room. He’s been working hard in the training room. … He’s a guy who nobody really talks about, but he’s a guy who I think has a lot of ability and speed and is athletic, and I’m excited to see him 100 percent healthy and see what he can do in the fall.”