Harris built a reputation for offensive expertise on the previous stops on his coaching odyssey. But in his first year at Stanford, the Cardinal averaged only 2.6 yards per carry and 24.5 points per game.
The Cardinal managed to finish with a 5-6 overall record, and they tied for fourth in the Pac-10 after being picked for the cellar thanks largely to an experienced defense.
Now Harris also is faced with the task of replacing some key seniors off that defensive unit.
Stanford's lack of explosiveness at the skill positions could be helped by the return of a healthy Evan Moore.
Moore, a 6-foot-7 wide receiver, suffered a dislocated hip in the season-opener against Navy and missed the rest of the season.
"Evan Moore has taken a negative and turned it into a positive," Harris said. "When you're a starter early in your career, you think you're invincible. You don't respect the things you have until you don't have them anymore. He's done a tremendous amount of training to improve his body and help him become a much more complete and dominant receiver."
Quarterback Trent Edwards is still on the path to recovery from a shoulder injury. He'll share repetitions in practice with T.C. Ostrander and Tavita Pritchard.
Improving the running game is critical. Jason Evans led the team with a meager 248 yards rushing last season.
They return and so does the entire offensive line.
"That is the good news and the bad news," Harris said. "A lot of guys played a lot of football. Unfortunately, that's the challenge, too."
Most of that group of offensive linemen were starters the year before, as well.
"We had 83 starts coming back on the offensive line," Harris said. "I don't think we showed it."
So despite all of the interior line starters returning, the competition has been thrown open by Harris.
Only center Tim Mattran, a one-time walk-on, goes into spring practice designated as a starter. "We're very concerned about the offensive line, so our quarterback can finish the season healthy," Harris said.
Edwards has missed games due to injury in all three of his seasons as a Stanford quarterback.
On defense, Stanford lost key personnel such as linebacker Jon Alston, defensive end Julian Jenkins and nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo. Harris is looking at sophomore defensive end Pannel Egboh as a potential playmaker. But Egboh, who had his season end with a broken leg, will not take part in spring practice.
Meanwhile, starting strong safety Brandon Harrison and tight end Matt Traverso have been suspended for spring practice "due to conduct inconsistent with the goals of the Stanford football program," according to Harris.
The Cardinal-White spring game will be played April 29 at 10:45 a.m. on the Stanford practice field.