Hardee Learns Quickly On Defensive Line

The words spill out from Jason Hardee in short, staccato bursts as he talks about his move to the defensive line.

What grabs the listener is not only what Hardee is saying, but how he's saying it. After a mid-spring move from tight end to the defensive line, the junior college transfer is very enthusiastic about his chances to earn playing time on WVU's rebuilding defensive front.

Hardee has had his share of disappointments so far during his WVU career, including a last minute ruling from the NCAA Clearinghouse in 2002 that forced him to sit out WVU's exciting 9-4 season.

"It was heartbreaking when the Clearinghouse ruled last year. I didn't know what to do. But this (WVU's Gold-Blue Game) made it all worthwhile. The crowd got me pumped up today. It's been a long time since I've been out on the field. Today was what I've been dreaming about all my life."

Getting on the field is a major motivational factor for any player, especially one that expected to earn playing time immediately, as Hardee did last year. And although he's not going to be at the position he envisioned when he first came to West Virginia, he still has that anticipation and enthusiasm for the game.

"I was coming in with the mindset that I was going to play at tight end, but now I know I'm going to be playing, so I really have to work hard," Hardee said. "When I get home I can't slough off. I have to pump it up on this side of the ball."

Hardee realizes that he has a lot to learn about the intricacies of defensive line play, but says he's already learned a great deal from his position coach, Bill Kirelawich.

"I've been working on my technique and learning what he tells me to do in practice," Hardee said. "You have to remember what coach tells you to do, because when I remember it and execute it I get off blocks pretty easily. He has me working on my hand position and on staying low. I understand that I have to shoot my hands and make sure the offensive guy doesn't get in on me and lock me up.

"I can't play high. In high school you can get away with playing high, but these guys are so good you just can't do it. I have to learn to use different moves. Fake inside, fake outside - you can't use the same move every time."

In addition to the technical side of the equation, Hardee says that Kirelawich is also telling him to be a playmaker - a commodity that the defensive line is searching for after the graduation losses of a year ago. Hardee admits, however, that remembering and employing new techniques, while also loosening up and "just playing" can be a difficult task at times.

"You have to remember the things that the coaches are telling you, but then you have to go play too. You have to put them both together. You can't get rid of one or the other. You have to use your techniques, but you have to just go play too. Coach says make plays - that's what he's telling me to do."

Hardee has made good progress during the short time he has been at defensive line, but knows that he has a great deal more work to do in order to challenge for serious playing time on the line. He will continue to work this summer on the things that Kirelawich has taught him this spring, and believes that he'll be ready to help on the Mountaineer defensive front when the season begins.

"If I slough off now, I'll be taking three steps backward after I just took a couple steps forward," Hardee said. "I want to be a guy who makes plays, not a guy who's being blocked all the time."

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