S&T's Harlan, Lineback end first year as Miner football players during spring drills.
Jake Harlan and Justin Lineback came just nine miles from home to become collegiate football players.
However, for the two former St. James High School all-staters it's been a much longer road than the I-44 trek from St. James to Rolla that they have traveled as members of the Missouri S&T football squad.
Harlan and Lineback began that long road in August of last year then closed their first year as true freshmen football players last Saturday during the Miners' annual Spring Game at Allgood-Bailey Stadium.
Lineback (6-4, 180) is a wide receiver and Harlan (5-11, 185) a defensive back for S&T. Both were red-shirted their freshmen seasons of 2012, during which the Miners finished 10-1.
As seniors at St. James in 2011 Harlan and Lineback both earned all-state honors with eye-popping numbers. As the team's QB Harlan had 3,314 total yards of offense with 35 total touchdowns, 2,232 passing yards and 1,082 rushing yards. He was all-state on offense and as a defensive back. Lineback caught 72 passes for 1,345 yards as a senior at St. James for 16 TDs.
It's been a year of learning for both at S&T.
And the learning process was tweaked in March, when S&T had a change in football head coaches. Tyler Fenwick was hired as Miner head coach in March and the squad spent all of April becoming acquainted with Fenwick and the new coaching staff.
"I feel confident," Harlan said. "We kept the same defense. Coach Fenwick is a great coach; he looks after us. We only lost two starters on defense and we're playing fast."
Harlan has been getting reps at safety throughout spring drills.
"I'm comfortable there," Harlan said. "Guys like Chris McKay and (Mark) Hopkins have helped me out a lot. Since the beginning of spring ball we've emphasized the small stuff; make sure you do your job."
Fenwick has liked what he's seen of Harlan.
"He's had a good spring," Fenwick said of Harlan. "He's a smart player and knows where to be. And he's not afraid to stick his nose in there.
"He'll be a good player for us."
Harlan says he'll spend the offseason continuing to work on his game until fall practice resumes in August and he begins his quest for a spot in the Miner secondary.
"You always get better," he said. "You never settle. And we've got good players around that will push me.
"I'm learning. The players at this level are just bigger and faster guys. It's just a transition (from high school)."
Lineback got to red-shirt and learn while watching a high-scoring Miner offense led by wideouts Smook Thomas and Joseph Hyman, who both put up huge numbers.
Thomas and Hyman are gone now, and there are opportunities for receivers.
And Lineback hopes to take advantage.
"Definitely, being a freshman you've got to come in and prove yourself," Lineback said. "Getting out there this spring; getting in and making plays."
Fenwick is installing a new offense, which has so far been a hit with players this spring.
"I really like the new offensive system," Lineback said. "It seems balanced and gives opportunities to make plays."
He feels he's come a long way since the fall.
"Seeing where I was at a year ago I didn't feel ready to be in there," he said. "Now I'm seeing I belong out there. It's been a confidence boost."
And Fenwick says Lineback will continue to get chances to impress in the fall.
"He's starting to come on," Fenwick said of Lineback. "He had a real good spring. He's got great hands and he's long, which makes a big difference. He knows how to get the ball and he's picked up the offense."
Over the summer Lineback will continue to work out with Miners who are staying in town and wants to continue to work on his speed and strength.
"The little things," he said. "Weight lifting will be a big thing and I'll do a lot of footwork drills and run a lot of routes. It's the little things that will pay off."