Two things seem certain regarding sophomore defensive back Mecole Hardman. First, he’s one of the most versatile players on the Georgia football team. Second, the former five-star standout he will play multiple positions this year.
At this point, it’s more a matter of when Hardman will actually get the opportunity to branch out versus if he will. According to head coach Kirby Smart, it will not be this spring. Hardman will continue to focus solely on defensive back.
“We have a plan for Mecole. We want to get some offensive snaps and be able to expose him to some of the concepts,” Smart said, “But it won’t be early in the spring. We’re committed to continuing to develop him as a corner.”
While at Elbert County High School Hardman played quarterback. During the all-star game circuit before enrolling at UGA, he saw a lot of time at wide receiver. After much speculation and debate over where he would start his career, Smart and the staff decided defensive back would be where Hardman fit best.
His first season was an adjustment year; Hardman appeared in 11 games, mostly on special teams and recorded six total tackles. Now, with a year of experience under his belt, Hardman is expected to take a big jump in more than one area.
"He’s a guy that’s going to be working mostly in our two-deep, with our depth at DB and some of the guys that left. We need him there. We need him to develop there,” Smart said, “We’ll find out in the fall when we get some more depth in, how much we need him versus on offense.”
With the departure of senior Maurice Smith, there’s an opening at the star position. Hardman is expected to compete for the job against other young players such as DeAngelo Gibbs, Richard LeCounte and Tyrique McGhee.
Aside from defense, Hardman could step right in a contribute in the return game. He returned one kick last season for 17 yards but this year, in light of the hole being left by Isaiah McKenzie, Hardman is the front runner to start at the kick and punt return spots.
One thing that coach Smart has been preaching is what he calls “sustainable focus”. Can his players keep their focus for long periods of time? Especially the younger players on the team.
It won’t be until fall when we see how much Hardman plays on both sides of the ball. To keep that focus on both sides of the ball will be a challenge but the staff is committed to seeing how it will play out.
“With spring, you have an ability to meet a little longer,” Smart said, “Guys like Mecole, can they handle extra meeting time at another position so they can learn what to do and develop so we can maybe utilize some of his skills.”