Kirby Smart addressed the media on Monday just a couple of days after the heartbreaking loss to Auburn. Despite the miscues and penalties, the head coach found a way to compliment one of his players. Mecole Hardman muffed a punt on Saturday which was one of the nails in the coffin for Georgia. However, Smart says that despite the muffed punt, that Hardman’s more confident than he has ever been and puts in a lot of extra work each week in practice.
Smart complimented the sophomore and mentioned that when he goes to his office to watch tape, Hardman is still out on the field catching balls to practice. Hardman’s been the primary return man for the Bulldogs and seems to improve weekly. Smart always takes the time to bring up the special teams unit, and Hardman is one of the major keys to the success of this position group so far.
“I hate [the muff] for him because he works really hard,” said Smart. “I’m in my office, ready to watch tape, and he’s still out there catching kicks and catching punts after practice. It’s important to him that he does it. We have to do a good job of simulating some of those kicks and making him catch the hard ones. He’s doing a tremendous job and the units around him are really doing well. I think if you ask the other coaches in the league, they’re saying ‘good grief, they have all these people blocked. So there’s some space there and he has a good opportunity to make some plays. He’s taken advantage of that.”
Kirby added, “I’m not disappointed in anything he’s done. I think he’s gaining more confidence and he’s making some plays in the kicking game. That was no more evident than Saturday. A lot of that was people getting hats on people. We work hard on that. I think that’s one of our best weapons. It opens us up to, you know, people want to fake kicks. We have to rep a ton more fakes because they’re like they just assume fake it than kick it to the guy because they’re back there returning it. That has been a positive for us, even though we did not play well on special teams because of the muff, because of the penalty, but if you take that out there’s a lot of positive in the kicking game.”
The head coach made it clear that despite the muffed punt, he thought the special team units did a good job. And Georgia’s special teams are one of its strong suits for the Bulldogs, which continue to improve weekly. Hardman adds to an already great unit with kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and punter Cameron Nizialek. Georgia finally has a true return man again, and Hardman doesn’t disappoint.
For Kirby’s full press conference check out the YouTube clip below.
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