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One-on-One with the Pirates
, August 18, 2010

By Ron Cherubini

Q&A with Grant Harner

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

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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 the league.

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" (Justin) Hardy. 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 Will Simmons 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 side.

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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Ron Cherubini Archives

08/18/2012 09:25 AM


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