The 49er faithful have been blessed with some outstanding running backs in the program’s short history, and with a three-year starter and the leading rusher in program history Benny LeMay preparing for the NFL draft, there are some monstrous shoes to fill.
Tre Harbison announced his commitment to Will Healy and the Charlotte 49ers in early December, and with one year of eligibility remaining, the Cleveland County native has found a family much closer to home.
Harbison put on an absolute clinic in high school, leading the Crest Chargers to back to back undefeated seasons and state championships. Tre posted 99 career touchdowns for Crest, with 37 of those coming in his senior season. With 12 scholarship offers consisting of ACC and SEC schools, Harbison committed to Virginia and enrolled early with the Cavaliers. A coaching change created waves and one of the top backs coming out of North Carolina made the move to Northern Illinois to play for Rod Carey and the Huskies.
Four years, a Journalism degree, and a conference championship later, Harbison hit the graduate transfer market knowing his decision would strike gold.
Tre is bringing a polished resume of his own to the Queen City. He posted two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in the MAC while being tabbed with 2nd and 3rd team All-Conference honors. The 5-11, 215-pound power back from Shelby, NC, ran for 100 yards five times in the 2019 season, with three of those performances going for 145 yards or more.
The awards and accolades have created excitement within the fan-base and locker room, but there’s still a running-back battle to be had. Senior Aaron McAllister had a solid season backing up LeMay in 2019, and even turned in a 100-yard performance against MTSU, the second of his career. McAllister and Harbison will battle throughout spring and into the fall, but both backs bring their own style to the backfield and the competition will only raise the level of play.
The 49ers are riding on the best season in program history, but with the first winning season and first bowl appearance behind them, Tre wants to make his mark and keep the QC trending up.
“I want to bring a conference championship to Charlotte for the first time,” Harbison said. “I feel like that would be more important to me than any individual goal.”
Three seasons of action in a ground-and-pound offense have highlighted Harbison’s talent and his ability to be a 3-down back. Tre averaged nearly 5 yards per carry throughout his career with the Huskies and carried the rock 230 times in the 2019 season, 37 more times than 49ers’ workhorse, Benny LeMay. A solid pass-blocking back is necessary for a spread offense, and with the 49ers operating from the gun with regularity, Harbison will be relied on heavily to keep the pocket clean and keep Reynolds up-right.
Tre warranted only one carry on crucial goal-to-go situations last season, but I can guarantee you that will change dramatically in Will Healy’s system. The offensive line is the biggest concern as we near spring ball, but Tre believes all the tools needed to win a conference championship are within reach.
“Everything matters, and every day matters in terms of being a championship team. I think we have every piece that we need, I feel like we need to just do it.”
The lone offensive transfer for Charlotte’s 2020 class sat down with UDD last week.
HB: Who was your favorite NFL player growing up?
Tre Harbison: Back when I was a kid it was Arian Foster, but now, I would probably have to go with Ezekiel Elliot.
HB: You’ve had quite the journey in your playing career. Tell me about you.
Tre Harbison: I had a pretty good experience in high school at Crest, my last two years we won state championships, and that was really cool to bring back to Cleveland County. After high school, I went to Virginia for a semester and got caught in a coaching change, and it wasn’t necessarily the best spot for me. I made the change and went to Northern Illinois instead of going the JUCO route, and I spent four years there - a good four years for sure. I got a conference championship there my sophomore season and made some relationships with guys that I will have for the rest of my life. It was a fun experience, but in my last year, I wanted to come home.
Just have to do what’s best for me! Thank you Huskie Nation for everything. It’s all love from my end With that being said, I’m excited for my next chapter ! TRUST GOD’s PLAN pic.twitter.com/APFWdg3juK— Tre Harbison (@TREHARBO) November 27, 2019
HB: Did Will Healy and staff reach out to you, or how did the recruiting process go?
Tre Harbison: When I entered the transfer portal, the first thing I did was send everything to Charlotte. I knew I wanted to be closer to home, as my home is in Shelby about 40 minutes away. When I was leaving Virginia, Charlotte (under Brad Lambert) was one of the first places that hit me up before I went to NIU. You know, Charlotte held a special place in my heart, and I knew deep down that it would probably be a place where I wanted to play my last year.
HB: Charlotte has had some stud running backs through the years. With one year of eligibility remaining, what does Tre Harbison bring to the table?
Tre Harbison: I want to do everything I can to help the team win. It’s whatever role that Coach Healy and Coach Carney want me to play - I’ll step in and play that role. If it’s the lead back, or whatever they want me to play, I will play it to the best of my ability. I bring a physicality to the offense and a down-hill style - just to bring the physical aspect to the offense as we have some dynamic receivers that will bring the flash, speed, and the big plays. The big plays will come from me as well, but I bring that other aspect that an offense need to be successful.
HB: You posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at NIU, how do you think that will transfer to Charlotte and C-USA?
Tre Harbison: I think that will transfer pretty well coming from the MAC, another Group of Five conference. I feel like the conference is pretty similar to here. I’m not necessarily satisfied with just 1,000 yards. I want to reach new heights in that aspect, but the individual goals don’t really matter to me. I’m more of a team-first guy.
HB: What did you see from the 49ers in 2019 that made you want to be a part of this program?
Tre Harbison: It just seemed like one big happy family. Everyone seemed to love each other from the coaches down to the grad assistants, and I just wanted to be a part of that. They were bringing the fun back to football. People get confused now that everything is a business, which it is, but you’re supposed to have fun along the way. Everything seemed good, and plus it’s so close to home.
HB: How do you think your talent/skill set fits the offensive scheme?
Tre Harbison: I think my style fit NIU a lot, and I did what they asked me to do in terms of my role, and I plan to do the same here. Just be the guy they can rely on in the run game, and in the passing game - whether that comes from blocking, or catching the ball. I want to be as versatile as I can.
HB: Charlotte is losing three offensive linemen, as well as their play-caller, offensive coordinator, and o-line coach, Coach Atkins. How are you feeling about the ability to overcome those losses in 2020?
Tre Harbison: I believe in everybody in this building. It all starts with us, and it ends with us. From the head coach down to the equipment staff, and whenever we get new additions I feel like they will come in and produce. We have leaders on the offensive line, older guys who will put them under their wings. I feel like everything will go pretty smoothly in terms of the transition.
HB: Spring ball starts in two weeks - how are you feeling heading into the grind?
Tre Harbison: I feel pretty good - healthy. Coach Laskowski, the strength coach, is teaching me a ton of things that I haven’t necessarily worked on, and I feel like I’m reaping the benefits from it. I feel good, and I think it will be a good camp.
HB: Lastly, is there a game on the 2020 schedule that you have circled?
Tre Harbison: Not necessarily - I don’t feel like one game is any bigger than another. Right now I’m just focused on being the best I can for the team. The most important game is the first game, and after that, it’s the second game - it’s an ongoing cycle. You have to take each week with the same approach, if not with more intensity every week. You have to make all the little things count in order to win a championship.