Mecole Hardman jumped, snagged the football at its highest point and landed with a foot inbounds in the end zone.
It was a textbook jump ball play that good receivers are able to make in man coverage. Hardman caught a fade from quarterback Jake Fromm out of the slot for a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter of Georgia’s 24-10 victory over South Carolina last Saturday.
The score proved pivotal, seeing that it came during the third quarter and put Georgia up 21-7 at the time.
Hardman said the play was a great call from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.
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“Coach made the right play with the fade in the slot,” Hardman said. “We had the whole sideline over there. Jake made a great throw and I just had to make a catch.”
Hardman concluded his game against South Carolina with three catches for 41 yards and the score. In his first-ever season as a full-time receiver, Hardman has dealt with a learning curve while adjusting to the new position. Even so, his play-making ability has been evident from the first game.
Hardman’s speed makes him a tough cover from the opposition. And since making the move from cornerback to receiver in the spring, Hardman has done his part to try and come down with tougher catches. Since he didn’t play receiver in high school, learning how to identify the ball and make a play on it didn’t come too naturally.
Over time, however, Hardman has improved and earned trust from the Georgia coaches.
“I still think he has a ways to go. I don’t think his potential has been met,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He was never a natural receiver. He’s worked at it but he caught the ball out there. He’s making plays in space. He’s fast, now. That’s the one thing about him, you have to respect his speed. We need him to grow up and develop. I love his toughness, I love the way he blocks and does things.”
For the season, Hardman has 12 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns.
As Georgia gets into the final quarter of its regular season, it could wind up passing the ball more if teams continue to load the box to stop the run. That could open up some more plays for Hardman to see the ball.
Receiver Javon Wims said Hardman has worked hard to improve over the course of the season to be a viable option in the passing attack.
“He’s grown tremendously,” Wims said. “He’s not only just a fast guy. He runs better routes, cleaner routes. He’s high-pointing the ball better. We work on that drill every day in practice.”
Hardman hopes to keep progressing in an offense that could turn to him a little more over the final month of the regular season.
“I’ve definitely improved through recognizing coverages, knowing how to run routes,” Hardman said. “I’m getting better and better at it. I just want to keep improving on my craft, especially with catching the ball. We’re going to keep on doing that.”