Linebacker A Late Bloomer

Coach Steve Mask from Colbert County talks about linebacker Courtney Harden and his strengths as a player.

Leighton, Ala.--In recruiting there are almost sure things, prospects who have almost been guaranteed to be top recruits since they first stepped onto a high school football field. However, most players develop over time into a prospect colleges covet on signing day.

Linebacker Courtney Harden from Colbert County High, an early Auburn verbal commitment, probably falls somewhere in between.

A talented athlete with the size (6-1, 207 pounds) and the speed (4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash) to excel on the collegiate level, Harden was just a part-time starter until his junior season when he exploded onto the scene to lead the Indians to the state championship game. Coach Steve Mask says that Harden is a player fans will enjoy watching play in the coming years.

"I think he's a tremendous athlete, obviously to be an SEC player," Mask tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "The potential has always been there, but it seemed like during the middle of the season last year the light sort of went on and he stepped it up a notch. He really came on and played real well all the way up to the state finals. He's got a lot of potential to be a great player. I think the future is definitely bright for him.

"He was one of the those kids that looked great in a uniform and everybody would always say, ‘Gosh, I bet he can do this or do that.' I think it was just a matter of confidence. Sometimes a kid gets labeled early as having a lot of potential and they're not really sure how to react to it. All of the sudden he woke up one day and realized that he wasn't that bad. I think that confidence breeds success."

Courtney Harden announced that he will sign with the Tigers in February.

The second leading rusher and tackler for Colbert County last season, Harden got better and better as the season went along and eventually worked himself into key roles on both sides of the ball for the Indians. Mask says that while he could play running back, his future is on defense for the Tigers.

"I know they like him possibly to play inside at middle," Mask says. "He's a three-sport guy, he plays basketball and runs track and he's extremely strong. I can see in a good weight program, with three squares a day and a structured environment, he's going to put on 30-35 pounds easily and maintain his speed. He has tremendous vertical jumping ability and has no body fat. He has a great opportunity to get bigger and stronger."

With a year in the weight room and watching film under his belt, Harden came into the summer a more polished football player. Now heading into his senior season trying for the state championship, the senior-to-be asserted himself in spring practice and Mask notes it made the team and coaching staff stand up and take notice.

"In the spring he was everywhere on defense," Mask says. "The thing about it is Courtney is a pretty good running back, too. We played him at fullback last year, but we're going to experiment some and put him at the one-back and use him some at tailback some in the two-back set and still use him some at fullback. We're going to get the ball in his hands. When he went through the spring it convinced me totally that he was an SEC player."

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