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Playing catch-up

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Rookie Brandon Harrison looks to improve rapidly at camp.

An NCAA rule prohibited rookie safety Brandon Harrison from being with the Texans for much of the offseason, but he's quickly making up for lost time.

NCAA policy says that rookie players are not eligible to report to their NFL teams until their school semester ends. Stanford is on the quarter system, so even though Harrison had finished taking classes in March, the rule kept him out of Houston until Stanford's semester finished on June 13 – after the Texans' OTA's, and also the last day of mini-camp.

"It was real tough," Harrison said. "It was frustrating being out there knowing everybody was getting together, becoming a team, learning the defense and all that. But it was even harder once I got here and realized just how far I really was behind."

But if there's any rookie on the Texans who can catch on quickly, it's Harrison. A National Merit Finalist in high school and recent graduate from Stanford with a political science degree, his intelligence has helped him compensate for lost time.

"He's a very smart guy," defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said after Saturday's practice. "He picks it up quickly, which is really good for him.

"Now, learning it in the classroom and then taking that and using it practically on the field sometimes are two different things. But in the classroom, from that standpoint, he knows the calls, he knows the adjustments – he picks up that stuff pretty quick."

Harrison quickly utilized his time in Houston upon arriving in mid-June, arranging several meetings with Hoke to watch film and learn the playbook before training camp started. Hoke showed him the foundations of the defense in those meetings, going over base coverages and blitzes. Harrison says it paid off.

"I feel like I'm catching up," he said. "I feel like my reactions are still a second slow because it's the first time I've done it live speed. But I feel like mentally, I'm pretty well caught up. And hopefully I'll feel like I'm 100 percent all the way there in a couple days."

Rooming with fellow rookie defensive back Fred Bennett at the Texans' training camp hotel also has made things easier for Harrison.

"Fred definitely helps me out," he said. "He was here all summer, so he gives me little pointers on what the coaches are looking for, what they expect out of guys. That helps me out a lot."

Harrison still was shaking off some rust at Saturday morning's practice on the second day of training camp, dropping a ball that he could have intercepted. Hoke rewarded him with a rigorous 100-yard drill after practice.

{QUOTE} But despite the early mishap, Harrison has become comfortable enough in his short time with his teammates that the rookie butterflies already have flown out of his system.

"No, not any more," he said when asked if he was nervous on the practice field. "That first practice, seeing how fast everybody was and how good all the receivers were and all that, I pretty much got it out of me. Now I'm out here and I've just got to prove how good I can play football and try to make plays whenever I can and help the team."

One advantage Harrison does have over his fellow rookies is that as a native of nearby Baton Rouge, La., he's accustomed to playing football in the heat and humidity of the Gulf Coast region. He just needed a little time to get reacquainted.

"It took me a couple days when I got back out here to get used to it because I was used to no humidity in California and all that," he said. "But it's all coming back to me. This is how high school football was, all the way back to fifth grade, so I'll be ready for it."

With his intelligence and other factors working in his favor, Harrison has an opportunity to develop at a vigorous pace before the season begins. If he can do so, Hoke expects Harrison to thrive as a rookie.

"I just want to see him get better every day from this standpoint right now," Hoke said. "That's about all you can ask for because he is a little bit behind everybody else from a rep standpoint and just seeing all the different things you're going to see in the National Football League from those offenses.

"But if he can get better every day, every chance he gets to practice, every chance he gets to play in the preseason, then I think he'll have a chance to be a productive player for us."

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