One of the questions for the upcoming 2017 college football season for Georgia is what role will Mecole Hardman, Jr. play for the Bulldogs? Will he spend most of his time at defensive back or on offense at a wide receiver? Or could we possibly see the talented athlete out of Elbert County play more than one role?
Mecole arrived at UGA as a member of the 2016 recruiting class from Elbert County High School. For a good portion of his varsity football career at Elbert County, his coaches put him under center to get the ball in the hands of their best playmaker as often as possible. While some programs recruited the talented athlete as a potential dual-threat quarterback, the majority of schools were wanting him to come in and either play at defensive back or wide receiver.
The Bulldogs’ former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt recruited Mecole to Georgia to play on the defensive side of the ball. After Mark Richt was fired and replaced with Kirby Smart at the end of the 2015 season, Pruitt went to Alabama to take over the vacancy that Smart left. Kirby brought over Mel Tucker as his defensive coordinator to replace Pruitt, and he and Tucker continued to recruit Hardman as a defensive back to Georgia.
And that is where Mecole played his freshman season at last year, seeing limited action at cornerback and on special teams.
Over the spring, from what the media had access to watch during the Bulldogs’ practices, Mecole Hardman was getting work mainly at wide receiver. In the G-Day spring football game, he was featured as a receiver for the Red Team working against the number 2 defense where he hauled in 3 passes for 62 yards. Mecole also competed at kick returner for the spring and we got to see him run back 2 kick returns for 51 yards on G-Day. Of note, for the G-Day game to limit injuries, players are ruled down on punt and kick returns if touched by a defender.
But how much will we see No. 4 on offense?
That is a good question, but I could see Mecole play a similar role for the Bulldogs this season as Champ Bailey, Brandon Boykin, and Branden Smith did during their careers at UGA. The three defensive backs not only saw snaps on defense but also on offenses and special teams. C. Bailey’s primary position for most of his career was at cornerback on defense where he caused opposing quarterbacks and receivers fits, but he also played on offense at wide receiver and returned kicks and punts. During C. Bailey’s junior season, he participated in over 957 totals plays between defense, offense, and special teams. He finished the 1998 season with 47 receptions for 774 yards and 5 TDs along with 84 rushing yards on 16 carries on offense, 12 kick returns for 261 yards and 4 punt returns for 49 yards on special teams, and he tallied 52 tackles on defense along with 3 interceptions.
During B. Boykin’s senior season at Georgia in 2011, he had 12 touches on offense at wide receiver and as a scat back for 174 yards and 3 TDs while racking up 55 total tackles (11 for a loss) and 3 interceptions on defense. He also returned 38 kicks for 850 yards and had 14 punt returns for 180 yards and 1 TD. And during B. Smith’s career from 2009-2012, he saw 45 touches on offense for 426 yards and 3 TDs along with 23 kick returns for 410 yards and 19 punt returns for 213 yards while tallying 80 total tackles on defense and 4 interceptions.
I don’t expect Mecole to approach C. Bailey’s 1998 numbers, especially as a sophomore, but it is not unrealistic to see him get 15 to 20 touches on offense at WR and also play on defense as a back-up CB in the rotation. Plus, he’ll get a lot of work returning kicks on special teams. Mecole is a very talented athlete and football player, but he is still raw as a receiver and is further along as a defensive back where he is still needed, something Kirby Smart touched on during his press conferences in April.
Here is what Coach Smart had to say on Mecole’s role on offense over the spring.
And here at the 4:37 mark to the 4:48 mark:
And Coach Smart’s take on Mecole Hardman Jr.’s performance at WR during the G-Day game at the 7:24 mark:
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