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Bigger body, bigger role expected for Jalen Harris in Arizona’s defense

arizona-wildcats-college-football-jalen-harris-stud-defense-spring-practice-preview-sumlin-2019 Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

As Jalen Harris’ role with the Arizona Wildcats has increased, so has his weight. If each continues to grow, he could be the hidden gem on a defense that must come through in 2019.

The 6-foot-4 Harris began spring practice at 242 pounds, up 30 from his true freshman year in 2017 and 12 pounds above where he was most of last season when he appeared in all 12 games, including starts in the last four at the stud position.

He wants to be up to 250 by the time the 2019 season begins in late August, but first he has to gain back the seven pounds he recently lost as an illness swept through the team and caused him to drop some weight.

“It was a little frustrating because I got used to the weight,” Harris said Saturday. “I enjoyed playing with it. I feel just as quick. It helps a lot because I also feel a lot stronger, I’m able to get O linemen off of me. That was a big problem for me.”

Harris recorded 21 tackles last year, four for loss, and also had three sacks. That number was tied for third on the team, only a half-sack behind JB Brown and Colin Schooler.

“This year I want to be double digits, that’s the goal,” he said. “I’ve gotta keep working.”

Coach Kevin Sumlin believes Harris can be a “difference-maker” as a pass rusher, something Arizona hasn’t had in a while. Scooby Wright was the last Wildcat that could be described as such, back in 2014 when he had 14 sacks.

“He’s disruptive, he’s long, he’s athletic,” Sumlin said of Harris. “This summer is going to be really important for him to strengthen his body, because athletically he’s what we’re looking for.”