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Spotlight shines on Harkey

UCLA FYI

October 21, 2008|Chris Foster | Foster is a Times staff writer.

Cory Harkey was just doing his job. Then the game fell into his hands.

Harkey, a freshman tight end at UCLA, calmly ran a corner route, settling in toward the back of the end zone. Meanwhile, chaos was occurring upfield Saturday, with quarterback Kevin Craft scrambling away from Stanford defenders.

"I thought he was going to run, so I was about to start blocking," Harkey recalled, "then the ball fell into my hands."

Harkey's seven-yard touchdown catch with 10 seconds left gave the Bruins a 23-20 win and was his first spotlight moment.

"Every freshman wants to come in and try to play and make a difference in the program immediately," Harkey said. "I came in thinking I could make this program better, whether I was playing or not playing."

There was little doubt among Bruins coaches, even early on, that Harkey would play.

But Harkey became more important when senior tight end Logan Paulsen suffered a broken bone in his foot in UCLA's opener against Tennessee. The Bruins, thin at tight end, needed Harkey in the mix immediately, even though he was suffering from a sprained ankle.

"Logan's injury expedited it, but Cory latched on to things early in training camp," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Not only does he learn quickly, but he's a physical presence. That's rare in a freshman tight end, to be able to handle the line as well as he can."

Harkey, 6 feet 4, 240 pounds, has the genes. His father, Mike Harkey, was a first-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 1987 and spent eight seasons as a major league pitcher. He is the bullpen coach for the New York Yankees.

Harkey strayed off the baseball path as a freshman at Chino Hills High.

"The football coaches saw how big I was and that I played basketball," Harkey said. "They wanted to see what I could do on the football field. I had never played before. But when I got out there, football just grabbed me."

And Harkey grabbed back. He had 64 receptions for 967 yards in three high school seasons. For UCLA, he has four receptions for 34 yards.

"We knew he was a good receiver, but his physicalness was what caught my eye," Neuheisel said. "He has the ability to hold the point of attack. That's impressive for a young guy."

QB juggling

UCLA is not alone in searching for consistency on offense. California, UCLA's opponent Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, has been switching between quarterbacks.

Nate Longshore started against Arizona last Saturday and built a 24-14 halftime lead. But when the Wildcats jumped ahead, Coach Jeff Tedford put Kevin Riley into the lineup.

Which quarterback trots onto the field Saturday does not seem to concern Neuheisel.

"Riley is more a running threat than Longshore, but I think the way the system is built they don't call different package plays for one or the other," Neuheisel said.

Odds and split ends

Cal running back Javid Best sat out the fourth quarter against Arizona because of soreness in his elbow. . . . UCLA defensive tackle Chase Moline (back) is unlikely to play this week. . . . Defensive end Reginald Stokes (knee) is questionable. . . . Tailback Raymond Carter (groin) might play. . . . Fullback Trevor Theriot, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last month, will undergo surgery this week.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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