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FB NEWS: Veteran DE, captain Jalen Harris returning to Arizona for 6th year

Arizona defensive end Jalen Harris is set to return to the Wildcats for his sixth and final season in Tucson.
Arizona defensive end Jalen Harris is set to return to the Wildcats for his sixth and final season in Tucson. (Chris Coduto | Associated Press)

One of Arizona's top defensive players is returning for one last season with the Wildcats. Redshirt junior defensive end Jalen Harris announced the decision Friday that he plans to remain in Tucson to finish out the remainder of his career coming off an impressive 2021 campaign.

Several UA players have entered the NCAA Transfer Portal since the end of the season, but what was talked about most when discussing Harris' future plans was a potential move to the the next level. The fifth-year defensive end has gone through numerous coaching changes and position switches throughout his career, but under defensive coordinator Don Brown and new defensive line coach Ricky Hunley he made impressive strides during the 2021 season.

Harris finished the year with 47 tackles, 25 of which were solo tackles, to go with six tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble. He was third on the team in sacks and fifth on the team in tackles this season.

His production on the field was only part of the contributions he made to the team this season. Harris served as one of the Wildcats' captains this year as part of the group tasked with guiding the team through another coaching change.

Harris' younger brother, Jason, joined the team last offseason after spending one season at Colorado giving him another reason to remain with the Wildcats. They are the sons of two former UA athletes with their father, Sean, being part of the Desert Swarm era defenses at Arizona and their mother, Cha-Ron, being a former UA basketball player.

The Wildcats are again going through defensive changes as Brown has left the program to become the head coach at UMass. Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch has selected former UCLA defensive line coach Johnny Nansen as the team's next defensive coordinator, and he is expected to keep some of the elements of Brown's defense in place.

“Very similar to what Don was doing a little bit,” Nansen said during his introduction press conference last week. “I like to pressure a little bit more, and just make sure our guys play hard. When you turn on the tape I want you to say three things, one, we’re tough. Two, they’re a physical bunch of guys. And three, we play fast, because our scheme is going to allow our guys to play fast. It’s a fun brand.”

Harris has seen steady improvement throughout his career at Arizona despite moving around to play different roles over that time. He settled in as a defensive end in Brown's system and put together one of his most complete seasons as a member of the Wildcats.

He has now made 28 starts in his career, including starting all 12 games this season, and he has played in 44 games overall for the Wildcats.

Up to this point in his career Harris has collected 121 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.

Arizona will be losing some key pieces up front as defensive linemen such as Trevon Mason, Mo Diallo and Leevel Tatum Jr. have all exhausted their eligibility. That group accounted for 94 tackles and 7.5 sacks this season, so being able to bring Harris back is important for the Wildcats.

UA's season came a close two weeks ago with a 38-15 loss to rival Arizona State dropping the Wildcats to 1-11 on the year.

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