UGA Football

Hardman states case for remaining on offense

By Jason Butt

Mecole Hardman catches a pass in coverage during Georgia's annual G-Day spring football game.
Mecole Hardman catches a pass in coverage during Georgia's annual G-Day spring football game. Georgia Sports Communications

Mecole Hardman turned up the field down the right sideline, following a ball lofted from quarterback Jake Fromm.

The ball was expertly thrown and in between two defenders. All Hardman needed to do was catch the deep pass to set his Red team up for what would wind up being a game-winning score. Hardman, who didn't play receiver in high school, brought the ball in for a 38-yard gain.

The play helped set up a game-winning field goal to give his Red team a 25-22 win over the Black team at Saturday's G-Day spring football game.

Hardman's performance -- three catches for 62 yards -- brought this question to head coach Kirby Smart afterward: Will Hardman stick to offense from here on out?

“Well, it depends. We’ve got to have corners, too,” Smart said. “It’s going to depend a little which route we go. It’s going to depend a lot on the guys coming in and that kind of thing.”

That has been Smart's script since Hardman moved to offense early in spring practice. While Hardman hasn't participated much at cornerback, the option still exists to move him back if needed. Considering what Hardman can do on offense, that may not be what Georgia prefers to do.

The Bulldogs are bringing in five cornerbacks on scholarship this summer. If a couple of those players can prove their worth as second-teamers, Georgia can afford  to keep Hardman on the offensive side of the ball.

But it is of note that Georgia decided to move Hardman to offense and use two walk-ons -- Tim Hill and K.J. Smith -- at cornerback for the majority of the spring.

In Hardman's case, he has had to learn two new positions since arriving to Georgia. Upon arriving to campus last summer, Hardman began learning cornerback, a position he didn't play in high school (he played safety when asked to participate on defense at Elbert County). On offense, Hardman spent his time in the backfield and didn't split out at receiver.

“Remember now guys, Mecole was not a high school wide receiver,” Smart said. “So how many catches did he have in high school? He was running the ball. He was catching the snap but that’s about the only catch he had. Us throwing the ball to him and him catching the ball in that way, he’s got to work on that part. But he’s a bright kid, he’s a tough kid. He’s extremely competitive. I’ll take that every time.”

At G-Day, Hardman split out as a slot receiver and strictly worked there. If he does stay on offense, the logic is there are many more ways he can be utilized.

Of course, Smart wasn't about to put that on film for his 2017 opponents to see.

“There are some things we didn’t do (Saturday) that we can do with him,” Smart said. “He had a couple of plays I thought he should have made. He made a big play there at the end.”