MORGANTOWN, W.Va. The Mountaineers possess one of the best safeties in all of college football in Karl Joseph, who was recently deemed the NCAA’s hardest hitter by the NFL. Redshirt junior Jarrod Harper has silently been watching his good friend and mentor Karl Joseph beat down opponents for the last few seasons.
There truly is no one better for an up-and-coming player like Jarrod Harper to learn from than someone like Joseph, a 2014 team captain and an all-around lethal defensive player. Coach Deforest has already declared Harper as a potential starter for next season when the Mountaineers lose Joseph to graduation, which is something that drives him to improve daily.
“I got nothing but respect for Coach Deforest, he’s definitely gonna push us each and every day in practice and he gets the best out of us. So, hearing that come from Coach, it’s a good thing. I mean, I see who I got in front of me, Karl, he’s a great player and next year whenever he’s gone I look forward to taking on that starting position and doing big things,” said Harper.
Harper endured shoulder surgery after the 2014-15 season which kept him on the sidelines during spring practices and the annual spring game. His focus on rehabilitation has led him to add muscle, speed, and a few extra pounds as well as increasing the mental aspect of his game.
“I mean, this year I’m just building off of what I did last year,” said Harper. “The game has definitely slowed down a lot more. Even though I missed spring, coming back from my injury and stuff I still feel like I’m playing fast and reading things faster and seeing things better.”
Harper also said that there are absolutely no lingering issues regarding his shoulder injury and recovery.
“Everything’s good to go,” he said confidently. Harper played in 13 games last season for the Mountaineers and recorded 13 tackles, a sack and a blocked punt that led to a safety against the Maryland Terrapins.
“I’ve definitely gained my strength back,” said Harper. “This summer I was doing rehab of course, still, and staying on top of it and then just putting extra work in with Coach Mike in the weight room so it definitely got my strength up and I definitely put on some weight so that was a good thing,”
Missing fall practice expectedly gave Harper an added level of difficulty for off-season training. Harper says knocking off the extra ‘rust’ has been a lengthy process but he’s handling it exceptionally well thanks to the Mountaineer strength and conditioning staff.
“Of course, taking yourself out of football for a couple of months and not being out there physically on the field and just getting mental reps, I mean you’ve gotta get back up to speed so there’s a little rust but I’m getting more comfortable each and every day,” said Harper. “I’m getting better, playing faster and I see myself playing faster on film every day.”
Harper says he’ll also be on the field for special teams again this season along with his respective safety position on the defense, which could help set him apart when the starting safety position does open up.
“I’m still gonna be on special teams and I’m still gonna do what I have to do,” he said. “So, whatever they call on for me to do, I’m gonna do. Going out and making plays on special teams gives the coaches a lot of confidence (in you) so I feel if you play well on special teams you’re gonna gain trust a lot faster than you would if you weren’t playing special teams.”
Harper will once again be wearing the No. 22 for the West Virginia Mountaineers this season and looks to add to his current 25-game resume.