There will come a day when the questions people ask about Kansas University wide receiver Nick Harwell are focused solely on whether he can catch the football and make plays on the field.
Today, however, the more important aspect of the former Miami (Ohio) University standout who transferred to KU and sat out the 2013 season might be how he fit in with his new teammates despite not being able to play a down during the 2013 season.
The answer, according to KU coach Charlie Weis, was favorable for the Jayhawks.
“He’s on people in the weight room,” said Weis, pressed for support to his claim. “He’s on people when we run sprints at the end of practice. If somebody is not running hard at the end of practice, you would think that one of the guys playing would be saying something. You’d hear Harwell chirping all the time, ‘Just shut the hell up and get going.’ And that’s when he wasn’t playing. Imagine when he is. I’m looking forward to it.”
As has become customary for the KU football program during recent years, the beginning of a new offseason brings with it the chance for Harwell to become a full-functioning member of the team. No more working with the scout team while the regulars practice. No more deferring to other on-the-field leaders when something needs to be said. Harwell has free rein to be involved in all of that now, and Weis believes the 6-foot-1, 193-pound wideout who never caught fewer than 62 passes during his three seasons at Miaim (Ohio) is more than ready.
A year ago, KU had automatic leadership waiting in the wings in the form of quarterback Jake Heaps, a BYU transfer, who, like Harwell in 2013, had to sit out the 2012 season. Heaps’ leadership role came easily because of his position, but Weis believes Harwell can have the same impact.
“When you have a guy like that, it brings everyone’s game up,” Weis said. “When he’s down on the show-team field, it’s a different type of deal. Like when we go one-on-one last year against the secondary, we would always keep Harwell out for one-on-one. He was clearly our best guy. It wasn’t close for second. They’d all see that. He’s one of them now. ... I’m really looking forward to Harwell.”
As was the case last spring when Weis first recruited Harwell, a fifth-year senior with one year of eligibility remaining, the third-year KU coach believes the three-time all-conference receiver immediately will upgrade KU’s receiving corps.
“The outside guy opposite of Harwell (is yet) to be determined,” said Weis, suggesting that plenty of playing time was available for play-makers. “It could be (a juco recruit). It also could be guys that are sitting right here that just play a hell of a lot better.”
Names on that list include seniors-to-be Justin McCay (9 receptions for 84 yards and 1 touchdown), Rodriguez Coleman (8, 208, 1) and Andrew Turzilli (7, 167, 1), junior-to-be Tre’ Parmalee (9, 74, 0) and newcomers Mark Thomas (2013 red-shirt) and Ishmael Hyman (2013 red-shirt), along with Class of 2014 commitments Bobby Hartzog and Tyler Patrick.