The William P. Harvin Experience: Oh my!

Let’s just call this “William Percival Harvin Experience,” a three-step, out of body, hips went this way and the torso went the other move that there isn’t a college football cornerback in America capable of covering. Markus Manson, who is going to be a fine corner someday soon but right now is still trying to figure things out after spending the last three years lining up at tailback for the Florida Gators, didn’t have a prayer. Markus could have been the best of Jarvis Williams, Lito Sheppard and Ryan Smith and it wouldn’t have mattered. Not on this move.

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There are people doing hard time in prison for less than what Percy Harvin did to Markus Manson with that one move that more closely resembled a Formula One car zig-zagging through traffic before hitting that extra gear and zooming away.

It started with three slow strides followed by two choppy stutter-steps. Manson was doing fine at the time but trouble hit him like lightning striking a man holding a three-iron in the middle of a fairway on a Florida summer afternoon. Percy power-shifted and cut to his left two steps, planted and went one hard jab step to the right. When he cut back to his left the last time, the turbo kicked in and Markus Manson was totally fried. He could have broken his ankles trying to recover.

Harvin sped to the sideline and caught the fade pattern throw from Tim Tebow over his left shoulder, then he cut upfield like he had a jetpack in his shorts. If this had been a real game, Mick Huber wouldn’t have had enough “oh mys” in his vocabulary to describe it.

Manson?  All he could do once he stopped the forward momentum that carried him toward the middle of the field after the second move was give futile chase. Markus Manson is very, very fast but he isn’t Percy Harvin fast.

You can look at this little show, courtesy of William Percival Harvin, sophomore from Virginia Beach, Virginia, two ways.

What comes to mind immediately is that it was totally unfair to have Manson, still a rookie trying to figure out the other side of the ball, out there trying to get a stop on Harvin. If you can visualize the Formula One analogy, it was a Ferrari accelerating past a Yugo in the straightaway.

That’s one way to look at it.

The second way is to consider this: there might not be 10 people on the planet that could make that move with cuts that sharp and with that much speed. Sure, Markus Manson was outmatched. Name a corner that wouldn’t have been that wasn’t on the All-Pro team in the NFL last year. Then again, you have to wonder if any of them could have handled that move.

It was that quick, that smooth and that frighteningly good.

So, maybe Markus Manson gets a mulligan on this one. He’s young in terms of defensive experience. He’s still trying to match up his football instincts to the other side of the ball and that just doesn’t happen overnight. And, no matter how he looks on the first day of practice, he’s going to get much, much better in 30 days. In two months, you probably won’t recognize him. That’s because he’s going to be coached up by Chuck Heater and for credentials, let’s just start and end it with these three examples.

Vernell Brown, all 5-8 and 163 pounds of him, made All-SEC at corner in his first and only year of being Heaterized. After spending the first four years at Florida as the man without a position, Vernell looked like he had been playing corner all his life.

Second example, Reggie Lewis. Ex-high school quarterback, ex-Florida wide receiver. He’s in an NFL camp now thanks to Heater. The guy who was supposed to be the weak link in the Florida secondary started 14 games for the Gators last year and intercepted three passes including one in the first quarter off Mr. Heisman himself, Troy Smith, in the national championship game.

Last example, Ryan Smith. Thrown onto the ash heap by Utah his sophomore year, he transferred into Florida and nearly led the nation in interceptions last year under Heater. He made All-America for the national champs a year after riding the pine for a Utah team that went 7-5. Ryan Smith is 5-10 and 165 pounds with pads and helmet on. He’s also in an NFL camp after getting drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round.

So, yes, Percy Harvin made Markus Manson look like the guy running down the road naked in the movie “Porky’s” Sunday night but Markus is going to be much, much better in the future. Chuck Heater will see to that. All Markus has to do is be willing and work hard. Everybody who knows him says Markus Manson isn’t going to be outworked this year.

But no matter how good Markus Manson gets, however, it’s doubtful he will be able to handle a rack and pinion maneuver like the one courtesy of Percy Harvin Sunday night. It’s doubtful anyone will.

Percy Harvin is that good.

Maybe because he hasn’t proven himself as a consistent down the field receiver, you don’t rate him among the top five wide receivers in the country. There are proven guys out there like Earl Bennett of Vandy and Marcus Monk of Arkansas that have glue on their hands and know how to make any catch in any situation. Other than a few shots down the field last year like the one against Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game, Percy has mostly caught underneath stuff where he hauls in a little five yard pass and makes people look silly trying to collar him in open space.

So perhaps it’s fair not to call him one of the nation’s five best receivers at least at this point in time. But are there five guys you would rather have lining up at the wide receiver position? Are there five more dangerous guys with the ball in their hands than Percy Harvin?

Maybe there are 30 or 40 players in the country that could beat Percy head to head in a straight sprint on a track. Percy’s run a very fast and highly respectable sub-10.4 hundred meters but there are lots of guys that have done that.

Take those same sprinters, however, and see if they have enough snap-back elastic in their hips and rubber in their legs to swivel, wheel and deal like Percy Harvin. Oh, and see how many of them can do an out of body experience move at full speed like Percy can.

You see there is speed and there is football speed and when it comes to football speed, there is Percy Harvin football speed. There probably aren’t five people in the country with Percy Harvin football speed.

Which brings us to this thought: Percy Harvin gave us glimpses of what he could do last year and he spent 75 percent of the year trying to get back to full speed after a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of game three in Knoxville. He’s healthy now. Very healthy. He’s also stronger and he looks faster and more elusive than ever before. So here’s the question.

What happens if Percy Harvin stays healthy all year long? What happens when Percy gets single coverage? You know that’s going to happen. The Gators are going to spread the field with four wide and since there is the threat of Tebow taking off with the ball, the defense has to keep a safety in the box and can’t afford to double more than one wideout. So, do you double Bubba Caldwell? He’s done the 40 in less than 4.3. Do you double Louis Murphy? The Florida coaches say he’s faster than Bubba. Do you double CI since you don’t have a safety that is strong enough or a linebacker that is fast enough? Or do you double Percy? Think about it for a second. He’s going to get single coverage at least a portion of the time and all things considered, pity the poor corner that has to try to handle him one-on-one.

Somewhere tonight, some cornerback in the Southeastern Conference is thinking that same thought and asking God why he didn’t give him better hands because if he had better hands and could catch the football, he could be a wide receiver right now and someone else would have this recurring nightmare about what happens against the Florida Gators when the assignment is Percy Harvin one-on-one.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.