When starting center Khaled Holmes went down with an injury during the first series of the game Thursday night, it initially looked bad. Hopefully the initial reports are correct that it's just a sprain, but either way once Holmes left the game Thursday night a lot of eyes turned to backup Jonotthan Harrison, an undrafted rookie out of Florida.
He had two bad snaps and then wasn't great as a blocker last night, but a lot of that you might be able to attribute to nerves. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who played exclusively with Harrison as his center Thursday night, had a lot of great things to say about the lineman when he had a conference call with Indianapolis media this morning:
"We're asking a ton of him. He's a guy that I think everyone is excited about. We got him as an undrafted free agent, but he's got a ton of talent. He's got really a ton of talent. I don't know how much experience he has snapping the ball under center because of where he went to college. That's something we've been working on and getting better at and improving on. He's a powerful guy. He's a really smart guy. I know all the quarterbacks, we really, really like him. Those are big shoes to fill because we put so much on Khaled already. With him going down, it's very, very tough. When you're the center, you're the point guard. You're the quarterback of that offense line. You're in charge. You're the leader. Those are big shoes. It's a big job. We need him to step up like he's done."
That's certainly high praise, especially coming from a guy who is entering his 16th season in the league, has played for four teams, made three Pro Bowls, and quarterbacked a Super Bowl. Hasselbeck has been around the block, so to speak, and knows a thing or two about centers and playing with them. To hear the praise for Harrison from Hasselbeck is encouraging.
I too really like Harrison's potential, and at times this offseason I went back and forth on whether to include him on my pre-camp roster prediction as a tenth lineman, but I ultimately did not. I love his potential for an undrafted free agent, though, and I think that he could be a guy worth keeping around. But for him to start right now if Holmes is out for any extended period of time? I think that we'd see quite a bit of struggles, like we did last night.
That's not to say I don't like Harrison, though, I just don't think he's ready to be an NFL starter quite yet. Certainly, though, Matt Hasselbeck's praise has to be encouraging to Colts fans nervous about the position.