Delvon Hardaway had said that he felt great coming back from knee surgery and he looked it through the Fresno State Bulldogs’ first seven fall camp practices, running routes, catching the football consistently, winning and sometimes winning big on the 50-50 ball.
But there are markers on a return from any injury and Hardaway exploded past one on Saturday, one of a few bright spots for the offense in a closed scrimmage.
The senior receiver, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing last season with the knee injury, showed a big burst and was running free and clear on the receiving end of a 50-yard touchdown strike.
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How he got there, that’s the thing that can play well for the Bulldogs this season.
“That’s one of the things that I’ve been focusing on,at the top of my breaks actually exploding,” Hardaway said.“Sometimes I’d get lackadaisical and as soon as I’d break I’ll look (back),but that kind of slows me down and I don’t get to the ball.
“I’m focusing on when I break giving it three hard explosive steps and then look for the ball and it kind of came in handy.”
Hardaway was more than 10 yards clear of any defender by the time he ran under a pass from Jorge Reyna, cruising the rest of the way to the end zone.
It was, he said, good to get back. A year ago, after a summer preparing for a fifth-year senior season, he did not make it to the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage in camp, going down with the knee injury in just the second practice.
Healthy now, Hardaway adds to a deep corps of receivers who a year ago ranked second in the Mountain West Conference with 54 pass plays of 20 or more yards, just two fewer than conference-leader Boise State. The Bulldogs return KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan, and have a few more credible threats down the field with Hardaway, the addition of Oklahoma transfer Michiah Quick and Derrion Grim more of a presence in his second season in the offense.
“Before the scrimmage, I was really emotional,”said Hardaway, who has battled injuries throughout his career. “Just getting the opportunity to come back out here was really emotional for me. To come out and play the way I did, to make some catches, I think I did pretty good in the run game, we’ll review the film and make corrections as always, but it definitely feels good to come out here and get in the end zone again.”
“I haven’t had any knee pain throughout this camp. It’s a credit to the work I’ve been putting in with (strength and conditioning coach Andy Ward) and the staff and then the trainers, Craig (Tweedy) and Sean (McMannes).”