Bruce Harbach knew he had a special player the minute he saw Matt Balasavage in the weight room three years ago. At 6-5, 235 pounds, Balasavage’s presence is tough to miss.
Harbach, the football coach at Lancaster Catholic High, was reassured of his evaluation when he consistently saw the tight end bolt down the field on screen passes, and drag a couple defenders with him before being tackled – as a sophomore.
Harbach knew Balasavage was the type of player who could help reverse Lancaster Catholic’s losing ways.
Balasavage, an incoming senior, will soon have a similar opportunity to help another struggling program right its ship.
On Monday, Balasavage became the fifth player to give Temple a verbal commitment to play in 2007.
The Owls finished winless last season and have gone 15 years without a winning season. First-year coach Al Golden was brought in to try to change that.
Now Balasavage, who among his choices had considered West Virginia and Boston College, will have a chance to help Temple, too.
This situation, Harbach said, reminded Balasavage of his experience at Lancaster Catholic, where Harbach has rebuilt a losing program into one of the Lancaster-Lebanon Leagues’ best.
“He likes the idea of a new coach coming in and rebuilding,” Harbach said. “…He’s kind of in the same situation. He relates to that.”
After two losing seasons under Harbach, Lancaster Catholic jumped to a 10-2 record in 2004 and finished 12-1 last season. Balasavage was a key part of that change.
As a sophomore in 2004, Balasavage started the season’s first four games before breaking his collarbone and missing the rest of the regular season. He came back for the Crusaders’ playoff game.
Last season, Balasavage caught 30 passes for 315 yards and five touchdowns as the Crusaders advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. He was named a member of the Associated Press All-State team.
“He’s great in open space,” Harbach said. “He knows how to find that open spot and he’s tough to bring down.”
Balasavage has the ability to become a complete tight end, Harbach said, because the sizable player can both block and go out for passes.
“He’s a combination of both,” Harbach said. “He’s fast enough to split to the outsides. He’s got great hands. He’s going to be a great Division I tight end.”
Golden and his staff also recognized Balasavage’s talents. While attending the Owls’ summer recruitment camp, Balasavage received a special message from Golden’s staff, according to his high school coach.
“They told him he was one of their top recruits at tight end,” Harbach said. “He was impressed with the staff and liked the camp. Here’s a good chance for him to come in and play.”
NCAA guidelines prohibit Golden and other Temple football representatives from commenting on recruits until they sign a National Letter of Intent.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.