From the second Ajene Harris arrived on campus, the under-the-radar wideout has pulled off an impressive transition from high school quarterback toward becoming an immediate playmaker on Howard Jones Field.
"It's been fun. It's been humbling. I've been getting better every day, so its been pretty nice," Ajene Harris said following Wednesday night's practice.
The humble, soft-spoken freshman never seems to overwhelm with personality. But his quick, effective route running has made him a rising prospect in USC's depth chart. Why has he been so successful, always asking to run back on the field -- even having to be restrained at some points? That stems from Harris' collected demeanor and fun perspective.
"I came everyday after school during the spring. I was just going over plays," freshman Ajene Harris recounts. "And then Nelson (Agholor) being a big leader and a role model to me also, he really helped me a lot this summer."
That hard work and attentive mindset has earned instant praise from wide receiver position coach Tee Martin. Already being compared to former Kentucky Wildcat, turned breakout NFL wideout Randall Cobb, Martin had noticed similar qualities in his talented slot receiver through just two weeks of training camp.
"I can catch real good," Harris said, noting his main strength, before adding, "I mean, there's always a lot to work on. Like as a wide receiver, you never want to really get satisfied with how good you are. Or if you are not so good, you always have to keep working. One thing I have to keep working on is running better routes."
In order for that transformation to take place in such a timely manner, Harris has worked diligently to master the playbook with a technician-like mentality.
"Pretty much, I've been staying in the playbook and just working on learning the plays mentally, so I can perform out here," the talented freshmen said.
Not necessarily the most talked-about recruit coming out of Crenshaw High School, despite the jaw-dropping performances he put together in the Los Angeles City Section, Harris humbly appreciates his new-found praise.
"Everybody in my class are great players," Harris said of head coach Steve Sarkisian's initial 19-man recruiting class. "They all have big names, high schools. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to play amongst everybody that came into my class and just have this scholarship and be on this field as a USC Trojan."
Many players have taken a strong liking to Harris, especially after snatching strong Cody Kessler bullet passes --almost emerging like Waldo in the middle of a cloudy picture -- to move the chains on many critical 11-on-11 offensive drives.
The growing sense is that Ajene Harris, a player who loves playing football in Cardinal and Gold, has grown into someone players rally around both on and off the field.
"I grew up watching USC and I always wanted to be a Trojan, so this just such a great opportunity," the Los Angeles, Calif. native said almost a week away from the season opener. "I always wanted to play with the top players in the country."
Ever since Tee Martin arrived at USC, the recruiting guru has worked wonders translating talented (even walk-on) prospects into successful pass-catching targets.
Like many players from the local area, Harris took advantage of an opportunity to shine. From the moment Martin laid eyes on Harris during a regular season match up featuring Crenshaw and 16-0 national champion powerhouse St. John Bosco last season, the two have maintained quite the strong connection.
"Since day one he's been on me," Harris described working with Martin. "So I've been getting better mentally every day, also in the film room watching film in meetings and out here (on Howard Jones Field), he increases my game."
As the USC Trojans get closer to releasing their official regular season depth chart on Sunday, the prevailing wind leans towards giving Ajene Harris the first-team honors as the slot wide receiver against Fresno State.
How does Harris feel about that? Lets just say the 5-foot-11 wideout doesn't buy into all the suddenly-elevated hype.
"I just came out here, just to work," Harris said, noticeably laughing along the way before adding, "If I start I start. I gotta take it day-by-day."