Wide receiver Khalif Herbin wouldn’t have picked himself first at the Cherry & White draft.
But the 5-foot-7-inch redshirt-sophomore was the first selection to the White team, while sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker went first to the Cherry team.
Who would Herbin have picked?
“Probably Kyle Friend,” he said.
Herbin and the White team fell 10-9 to the Kenny Harper-led Cherry squad last Saturday at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pa. But the fact that he was chosen first meant a lot to Herbin.
“I could tell how highly my teammates thought of me,” Herbin said. “I was very surprised and I feel like I’ve been working. I’m not where I need to be by any means, but I’ve been working. I’ve been understanding what my coaches have been teaching me and I’ve been buying in to what they’ve have been saying.”
Herbin was one of 14 true freshmen to see game action in 2012, but he redshirted last season.
“The whole team recognizes what Khalif can do,” coach Matt Rhule said. “You kind of have to find ways to get the ball in his hands, but as a returner I think he’s going to be special, and that year off, that year of redshirting really helped his body where he can take a pounding like he did today. So we expect Khalif to be a playmaker.”
Last Saturday, Herbin was a playmaker.
Junior running back Jamie Gilmore went up the middle for a 65-yard touchdown run to give the Cherry the first touchdown of a low-scoring game in the third quarter. Then, just a few plays later, Herbin responded.
Herbin took a pass from redshirt-senior quarterback Connor Reilly and ran along the sideline, cutting back in toward the middle of the field to finish off a 66-yard touchdown reception.
“We had ran the play several times before,” Herbin said. “I guess I was kind of hesitating before, but this time I decided to catch it and go.”
In total for the day, Herbin had five catches for 93 yards, including that touchdown pass. But he didn’t get to take passes from Walker, who he has built chemistry with throughout the spring.
“That’s my guy right now,” Walker, who went 15-31 with 172 yards and two interceptions on Saturday, said. “He can make a lot of plays with his feet as well as getting vertical and catching the ball, so he’s going to be a great help that nobody’s really seen yet.”
“I was kind of disappointed that I went No. 1 to the White and he went No. 1 to the Cherry,” Herbin said. “For the last couple of practices in spring ball it’s just been on, and me and P.J. talk every day, have a good relationship. I like playing for a quarterback like that, the coaches as well. When you see how hard the coaches work, it makes you want to go extra hard on the next rep.”
As a freshman, Herbin saw playing time on the return unit in 2012, under the previous coaching staff that was led by Steve Addazio. Last season, Herbin said he didn’t want to redshirt at first.
“But then I just thought about all the positive things that could come out of it,” Herbin said. “Every day I worked out, and I went into the weight room, and I went on scout team, and I worked on my craft every single day and I gave the defense the best possible look.”
Herbin said that him improving his performance in practice would help the team better perform in a game, which made him feel “just as important as anybody else.”
But he admitted that during last year’s spring that he wasn’t completely there.
“I got hit with some injuries and probably wasn’t as focused as I should have been if you wanted me to be honest,” Herbin said. “I kind of swayed away after the spring game.”
“This year I feel like my whole mindset has changed” Herbin added. “I come and watch film and I see the coaches are still there. I’m just like, ‘He’s depending on me to feed his family and I have a free education, so why not?’”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.