CHERUBINI CHIMES IN
One-on-One with the
August 18, 2010
By Ron Cherubini
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Without a doubt, when it comes to the East Carolina offensive line, Grant
Harner is the veteran hands down. He heads into what will likely be his
third straight year as the starter at right tackle and for good reason: He
is a very good one, particularly in the pass-happy Pirates scheme.
With 20 starts under his belt, the junior quietly is on path to be a
four-year starter here. It is that kind of stability that OL coach Brandon
Jones is finally starting to see at the other positions on the line. In
Harner, reliability is job one, so when he was held out of contact in the
spring for awhile, it was a bit unsettling. But he is healthy again and the
spring only served to allow him to study more film and let backup Robert
Jones get valuable reps.
Considered a candidate for All-Conference USA honors this season, Harner
will be counted on to keep the right tackle position well-manned and to
continue to develop his rapport with the Pirates other OL ironman — guard
Will Simmons — to form a right side tandem that could be as good as any in
Grant was kind enough to sit down for a chat with Bonesville to share his
insights on the upcoming season.
Grant Harner in action
(ECU SID photo)
One-on-One with Grant Harner
Q: You're just a junior, but are
somewhat of the wily veteran on the offensive line,
having locked down the ROT position for two years
now. To what do you attribute your ability to be a
stable position on this line?
A: Really, I think it (has)
mostly just been hard work and some of it is just
luck not getting injured too badly. We all have a
common goal and are ready to help our team get back
to the (C-USA) championship game and that is a
powerful motivator for us.
Q: With the OL starting to look
stable now, with a good mix of experience and guys
settling into positions, why do you think that this
year will be a better year for the OL?
A: We really are much improved
and that is because we have played together now for
some time. That is important for the group to be
successful. We worked very hard this year in summer
and in camp. I can assure the fans that we are going
to be much better, much more physical and it will be
obvious on the field.
Q: Does a new QB change anything
for the offensive line? Is it a bit odd without
Dominique [Davis] in the huddle now?
A: I wouldn’t say it is “odd”
without (Dominique) in the huddle, but it is
different. He was here a long time and was great.
But all of our quarterbacks have talent so it
doesn’t really make a difference to us because
whoever it is will be able to manage the huddle. Our
goal is to ensure that whoever the quarterback is,
that we keep him off the ground. I think we are all
adjusting to their different styles and will be
ready for whoever is going to lead us.
Q: So ECU’s offense always seems
to be among the best passing attacks each year, we
get that. But in terms of being able to effectively
run the football, what has been the focus for the OL
to make our team a ground threat this year?
A: That has been a huge, huge
emphasis for us this year. We are determined to run
the football this year. I think that being much more
physical is helping us see success in the run game.
Q: You have mentioned, as have others, that the OL
is much more physical — noticeably so. Talk about
the Coach (Jeff) Connors effect?
A: Let’s just say that the best
way to describe Coach Connors is that he is an
animal. He is determined to get the best out of us
and he is going to get that out of us. I think we
have all been working hard since we got here, but he
is putting us through it particularly hard this
year. We are older and more experienced and he can
demand a lot from us because we know how to give it.
He is focused, which has us all focused on becoming
a great offensive line. And, yes, you can see the
changes physically — they are obvious.
Q: What player on this team do
you most respect and why?
A: I would say "J"
His ability to make plays is amazing. He is precise
and always accountable —always. You know when he is
out there, he will pull through and do what he is
supposed to every time.
Q: You and
have worked together at the right tackle-guard
combination now for a year. Do you like that
relationship? Can you elaborate some on it?
A: I love playing next to Will
and I think — I hope — he feels the same way. He is
intense and is very physical. We know each other
very well and work well together. I would like to be
seen as a formidable combination out on the right
Q: One of the issues last year
was that when the injuries came, the reserves were
not at the same level as the starters. How are those
guys looking to you, as a veteran?
A: I will start with Robert
(Jones). Robert has made huge improvements in both
run and pass blocking. He will definitely be a
factor for us this season and there won’t be a drop
off with him in there. We have nine, 10 guys who are
ready to play right now, so our depth is much
better. Young guys? Tre (Robertson) is doing great…
he’s grown up a lot football-wise and looks good.
We’re two deep at center. I think our depth this
year is an advantage.
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