“Heart Attack” isn’t a nickname usually mentioned in the same breath as a top-tier quarterback.
But in the case of No. 12 Miami’s Jacory Harris, it hasn’t been his own team’s coaches and coordinators for whom he has been raising the stress level.
It’s been opposing defenses.
Harris has flourished in his second season behind center for the Hurricanes, throwing for 2,336 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Those numbers — along with a 61.6 percent completion rate — have vaulted Harris to the top of the ACC’s pass efficiency ranking this season.
Not bad for a player who had trouble being named the best quarterback on his own team, let alone in the conference, last season.
Harris, a true freshman in 2008, endured a season-long quarterback controversy that year with redshirt freshman Robert Marve.
Marve and Harris, both record-breaking quarterbacks in high school, were shuffled in and out all season at the position, with neither getting the upper hand in a mediocre 7-6 campaign for the Hurricanes.
The issue was settled in January when Marve opted to transfer out of the program due to a rocky relationship with Miami coach Randy Shannon.
And without having to look over his shoulder for a hook after a mistake, Harris has been a revelation.
“You can just tell the confidence and the poise after last year kind of alternating back and forth,” North Carolina coach Butch Davis said. “Now being a full time starter, how much of a difference that has made in his performance.”
Harris tore out of the gates to open the season against rival Florida State, torching the Seminoles to the tune of 386 passing yards and three touchdowns (one rushing).
As an encore, he put on another all-conference-worthy performance the next week against now-No.7 Georgia Tech, tossing for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
And he did it with efficiency. Harris completed 20 of 25 attempts, which comes out to a sterling 80 percent completion percentage.
The loss to Harris and the Hurricanes still remains the only defeat the Yellow Jackets have experienced this season.
Performances like those have guided the Hurricanes to a 7-2 record and helped put Miami at ease about the transfer of Marve.
“Maybe last year we wanted Marve out of the game and hoped that Jacory came in. Now that’s a different story,” UNC cornerback Kendric Burney said.
“He’s been tearing up the field. He was a Heisman candidate for a few weeks.”
Winning isn’t anything new to Harris.
The sophomore captured the state and national championship in his lustrous high school career, finishing with an unblemished 30-0 record as a starter.
Along the way, he broke Florida’s passing touchdown record, an honor previously held in 2005 by Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and in 2006 by Marve.
But that’s not to say Harris is the perfect player.
He’s averaged more than one interception a game this season, and he showed his inexperience in conference losses to No.20 Virginia Tech and Clemson.
He completed just nine of 25 passes against the Hokies, and he threw three interceptions to the Tigers.
But Harris’ flashes of brilliance have outweighed his mistakes so far.
If anyone’s reaching for their chest after a decision on the field by “Heart Attack,” count on it being Davis and the UNC defense.
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