For Desmond Harrison, the hype last season was larger than the man himself.
Harrison did not make the big splash many fans had hoped for in 2013. He arrived on campus in July, hitting the practice field later that month. However, things got off to a rocky start. In early August, the NCAA – apparently bored and looking for something to do – questioned an online class Harrison took from BYU. The ordeal lasted until August 20, leaving the lineman sidelined as his teammates prepared for the season opener. The delay cost Harrison valuable practice reps, and he started the season as a second-team tackle.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Harrison arrived on campus as the No. 5 ranked JUCO player in the country. He was the top-rated JUCO offensive tackle by 247Sports. At 6-foot-8, fans envisioned Harrison locking down the left tackle job and keeping pass rushers off of David Ash. Fans were excited about what the offense could do with Harrison manning the left tackle spot.
That dream never materialized.
One year later, there are questions along the offensive line. Center Dominic Espinosa is the one constant fans can count on. The rest of the line is a work in progress. There will be at least three new starters. Joe Wickline was brought in by Charlie Strong to whip the group into a cohesive unit. Jobs are up for grabs, and players have the chance to make a name for themselves. In Harrison’s case, this means putting last season behind him and starting over with a clean slate.
A new offensive scheme means the offense will want to establish the run early in the season. It will take some time for the passing game to develop. Wickline’s group is going to need to carry the load. Harrison can help ease any concerns by locking down a tackle job. He will have to beat out Kennedy Estelle and Kent Perkins. Estelle started seven games last season. Perkins suffered a knee injury in the spring, costing him important snaps that could give Harrison the edge he needs to grab a starting job.
2014 will be a season of redemption. The program – once competing in BCS bowl games and landing top recruits – has fallen on hard times. Highly-ranked players like Harrison have the opportunity to right the ship and help put the program back on the map. Fans will find out soon enough who can live up to the hype, and who can’t.
It’s time for Harrison to become the player fans are expecting.