KC Chiefs: Interview with Coach Will Harris on Trent McDuffie’s potential

Dec 5, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Trent McDuffie (22) forces a fumble by Stanford Cardinal running back Austin Jones (20) during the fourth quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Trent McDuffie (22) forces a fumble by Stanford Cardinal running back Austin Jones (20) during the fourth quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

Trent McDuffie wasn’t supposed to fall that far.

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, when speaking to reporters after the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, stated that he was surprised to see McDuffie, a cornerback prospect out of the University of Washington, coming available two-thirds of the way into the first round. It was then he decided to give away additional third and fourth-round picks in order to swap first-round selections with the New England Patriots in order to secure him. Just like that, the Chiefs had begun their draft weekend.

Veach wasn’t the only person who was shocked to see McDuffie still available in the second half of the draft. Former Washington defensive backs coach Will Harris had worked with pro-ready prospects for years, helping to establish the Huskies as a program known for churning out NFL-level defensive backs. After having worked with McDuffie for a few years, Harris knew he had an elite talent on his hands. He also knew where McDuffie’s talents deserved to be selected.

With McDuffie secured by the Chiefs this past weekend, we reached out to Coach Harris to gain further perspective on the team’s first major investment at corner in several years. Harris has moved on from Washington in the last several months himself to make the leap to defensive coordinator at Georgia Southern, but was kind enough to take time out to talk about his former pupil, McDuffie’s attempts to mimic Tyrann Mathieu, and the special draft day message he was able to convey.

There seems to be something special about the work you and others have been doing at Washington in recent years with the pipeline of defensive backs to the NFL.

It was pretty cool to see all those guys, year by year, get developed. But one thing about it was that Jimmy Lake took me under his wing. It was a blessing because once he passed it on to me, we already had that thing rolling. It was being able to see how all the other guys did: Kevin King, Sidney Jones, Budda Baker, and then it started trickling down to Byron Murphy, Taylor Rapp, Elijah Molden, Keith Taylor, and now this upcoming year with Trent [McDuffie] and Kyler [Gordon]. All those guys understood what we’re trying to do: to develop guys to get to the NFL. It was pretty impressive to see all of them have that mindset and manifest all of it.

You mentioned Trent in that long line. How does he compare?

I don’t think people really understand what kind of player he is. A lot of people I’ve talked to—coordinators, head coaches—ask me and I’m like, ‘Look man, this guy is a bona fide first-rounder. Take him immediately. He’s going to be an All-Pro.’ I know how it sounds because I’m his coach but think about it. I’m coming from the University of Washington where there’s a bunch of guys we have in the NFL. I’m seeing it and watching it and I’m like, ‘Hey I’m letting you know he’s one of the better ones to come up out of here.’

Brett Veach said he was shocked that Trent fell to No. 21.

I was pretty shocked, too, as well. [Went so late]

I know you love his game, but scouting reports did point out a couple of potential hurdles, one being that he’s labeled as a zone corner. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these perceived issues.

A lot of people say zone corner or this type of corner. Trent is just a corner. He’s a lockdown guy. There were times when we knew for a fact that they had a guy on the offensive side and we’re putting Trent on him on and we’re not worried about that side at all. It speaks to his body of work. It’s pretty impressive the resume he put together. Week in and week out, in his three years, we played a lot of man with him.

What are people overlooking with Trent?

For Trent, what’s so impressive—even on day one when he came to UW—is that Trent can literally draw all 11 guys on the football field. He understands what the safeties have and what the linebackers have. He understands all the checks the linebackers are making to the d-line. That’s one thing I always thought was pretty impressive.

That sounds like someone Chiefs fans are used to seeing on the field in Tyrann Mathieu.

It’s so interesting because every year we did studies on guys and one year he wanted to do a study on Tyrann Mathieu. Like I said, he’s one of those guys who is a leader just like Mathieu is. Then another thing that Kansas City will see, they’re going to see his ball skills. There were a lot of times when people just didn’t test Trent, but now that he’s in the league, they’ll finally see how good his ball skills are.

Another concern was his size, especially concerning the sort of receivers he’ll face in the AFC West and so on.

If you just go off his tape, we played against big guys. We played against all the 6’5, 6’4 guys.  You’re going to get a competitor in Trent McDuffie. Would you rather take a guy with longer arms that can’t win at the line or can’t run with guys? He has a full body like a football player. What we say him as is that we’d say, ‘He’s a future NFL guy.’ So you can say all those measurables, but one thing I know about Trent is that he’s a dog. He’s going to compete his butt off every single play.

Did you get a moment with Trent after he’d gotten the call?

It was pretty cool to see everything he worked for. On my board I’d written “first-round draft pick”, and so every time he came in to watch film, I’d point to it and say, “Look at that.” So for me to say that to him last night, it was like, ‘Bro, it happened! It happened!’ It was one of those moments where you get chills because you get to watch that body of work come together into that great time and moment with his family.

Next. Five futures players to watch for the Chiefs. dark