In the months leading up to the 2012 college football season, freshman wide receiver Jamel Harbison was tabbed as the explosive playmaker the Gophers’ offense has lacked in recent years.
But Harbison tore his anterior cruciate ligament less than halfway through Minnesota’s first game in 2012, ending his season.
Now almost fully healthy, Harbison showed Minnesota fans and teammates a glimpse of that playmaking ability in the Gophers’ spring game.
Harbison caught five passes for 52 yards and scored a touchdown on a slant route.
“That’s an encouraging thing,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “When you come off major knee surgery, it takes a while to get back in it.
“I hope this is like the beginning of the season so when he comes back in the fall, he’s 100 percent.”
Harbison ran smooth, crisp routes and seemed to develop a rapport with quarterback Mitch Leidner, especially in the second half.
“He really understands where he needs to be,” Leidner said. “You get him the ball quick, and he’s going to make some guys miss and get downfield and score touchdowns.”
Harbison had said during spring practice that he was about 85 percent healthy. He revved that number up to 95 on Saturday, citing the excitement of a game-type atmosphere.
“Just because the tempo was up a little bit more, it felt good cutting on it and everything,” Harbison said. “The knee is not a problem right now.”
Harbison said he plans to continue rehab in the forthcoming months.
“Once I take a break, that’s losing muscle, losing power,” he said. “So I can’t take any time off if I want to be at my best.”