I spent a few hours inside the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex at Minnesota's Pro Day on Monday and took heart knowing the weather should be considerably better once spring practice begins for the Gophers, on March 26.
Here's a look at one of the players the coaching staff can't wait to see back out on the field:
Position: Wide receiver
Eligibility: Redshirt freshman
High School: Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek
Recruiting flashback: He scored 21 touchdowns as a high school senior in 2011, and drew a four-star rating from ESPN.com, which ranked him as the nation’s No. 32 receiving recruit. Rivals.com listed him as a three-star recruit, with other offers from West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Virginia and North Carolina State.
2012 rewind: Harbison had a terrific fall camp and started the season opener against UNLV. But in the second quarter, he was tackled hard on a running play and tore the ACL in his right knee. The only salvation for the Gophers was knowing it happened early enough for Haribson to qualify for a medical redshirt. “The good Lord is probably telling us we need to redshirt him anyway,” Coach Jerry Kill said that week. “Am I disappointed? Yeah, I think Jamel had a chance to be one of our premier offensive players. At the same time, I know I’ve got him for four years.”
2013 outlook: Harbison’s rehab is said to be going well. It sounds like he’ll be ready for spring practice, though the Gophers will be careful not to push him too hard only six months out of surgery. The focus will be on getting Harbison ready for the Aug. 29 season opener against UNLV. With A.J. Barker’s departure, Derrick Engel (375 yards) and Isaac Fruechte (256 yards) are the team’s top returning receivers. That unit could take a big step forward once Harbison returns to full speed.