It is hard to observe a Cougar practice this spring without noticing Jonny Harline. He uses his great athletic ability to catch more than his share of balls. Harline has shown good speed, athleticism and great hands so far this spring. His efforts have not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.
"Jonny had a phenomenal off season," said Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall following today's practice. "It was amazing because the coaches were noticing that he works hard, he runs fast and wins the conditioning test and has a good mindset, but we wondered if can he play football. So far I think he's been answering those questions."
"I'm just going out there and trying my best," Harline said. "I guess I'm doing alright. I feel pretty good about it. I have a lot to get better at, but I feel I'm doing alright."
Harline came to BYU after serving an LDS mission in New York City. after serving an LDS mission in New York City. Prior to his mission he played one year at Ricks College where he had an outstanding season brfore tearing his ACL.
"It was kind of good timing because those two years on my mission really helped my ACL to heal," Harline said.
Before his LDS mission, the 6'4", 235-pound sophomore tight end was offered a scholarship by BYU and Harline readily accepted it. Since arriving at BYU, Harline has been active in getting his form back after his ACL injury. He is working to increase his speed and strength through the off-season workouts, and, as Mendenhall expressed, he is doing well in his efforts.
"I know I'm doing a lot better than I was last year," Harline said of his conditioning. "I know that I'm a lot faster and stronger now from the off season workout program. It's really helped a ton."
Harline also credited his improvement to the fact that he is now removed from the limited physical activity of his mission by another year. "I've thought about [the benefits of being home longer]," he said. "I think it's true just because of the time you can put in the weight room. I'm running a lot now and I think just the time you're able to put in helps a lot."
One change Harline made from last season was switching positions. Instead of a traditional tight end, he is now an inside receiver in Robert Anae's new wide-open attack. This is a change that Harline has embraced in the early going.
"Most of the time we're up in a two-point stance, where last year we were in a three-point stance," Harline said. "That's the most obvious difference. We're also spread out a lot of the time unless it's short-yardage or goal line situations. I like the two-point stance because I feel like I can see more and if you're more spread out you don't get jammed up as easily."
With the off season conditioning behind him, Harline has entered spring practice with a roar. He has quickly become a big target that the quarterbacks often look to in drills.
"He's really been a pleasant surprise thus far," Mendenhall said. "It's still too early to tell and give him the nod of the approval that he's the guy, but I've really been impressed so far."
Regarding his prospects this coming year, Harline said, "I just want to play and contribute to the team. If they feel like I can get a lot of reps and catch a lot of balls, then great. I just want to try my best and contribute in any way that I can."