Cory Harkey wants to be a complete tight end
In past seasons, people might have looked at UCLA’s Cory Harkey and thought: There’s an NFL tight end.
They might have watched him block and thought: There’s an NFL tight end.
Then they might have seen a pass thrown to Harkey and thought: Maybe he can put on weight and play tackle.
But Harkey is beginning to alter that last perception.
“I want to be an all-around tight end,” Harkey said. “I don’t want to be recognized as a blocking tight end. I want to be great in all areas of the game.”
It’s hard to ignore the blocking. At 6 feet 4, 270 pounds, Harkey is a physical menace. Jim Mastro, hired to work with tight ends and coordinate the run game, reviewed game tapes and said of Harkey: “At the point of attack, he’s the best I have ever seen.”
Catching the ball was another matter.
Harkey had 14 receptions last season, four coming in a lost-cause effort against Oregon. He had no more than one reception in any other game. A senior, he has 27 receptions in three seasons.
“He was always on his heels last year,” Mastro said. “Everything he did, coming out of his break, setting up, his shoulders were out of tilt. We needed to correct him.”
Mastro taped Harkey’s cleat heels and had him run routes.
“Every time he dug in his heels, he’d slip,” Mastro said. “I put stuff under the heels. I did everything to get him on his toes.”
Coach Rick Neuheisel said Harkey “has gotten better, but he still needs to catch the ball with consistency.”
But he is catching the ball.
“That was the last piece,” Mastro said. “He’s an NFL tight end.”
UCLA will scrimmage at Drake Stadium on Saturday at 5 p.m. Neuheisel said he hoped to get in 60 to 75 plays.
While the focus recently has been mainly on what Neuheisel says is a quarterback competition between Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, other decisions need to be made in the next week.
Chris Ward, Greg Capella and Albert Cid are competing for the starting spots at guard. Cid, a transfer from Citrus College, moved up to the first team this week but was rotating with Ward on Friday.
“Albert has a lot going on,” Neuheisel said. “He just got here and certainly he’s showing that he’s capable of playing.”
The strongside linebacker battle between Jordan Zumwalt and Glenn Love has picked up speed since Zumwalt returned from a concussion.
Linebacker coach Clark Lea said there is “plenty of time for Zumwalt to show what he can do.”
Love, Lea said, “responded to the things we told him to work on. He’s making it hard for me to pull him off the field.”
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