The Elbert County product worked with UGA receivers during media viewing periods, and he had a particular wiggle and explosiveness the Bulldogs have been missing on the offensive side of the ball lately.
He didn’t have a drop that I noticed, even though it seemed clear he was still working his way into the position. Hardman, it should be noted, is still very much in the plans for Kirby Smart and his defense.
When I asked if he regretted not playing Hardman on offense last year, Kirby firmly said no.
“Absolutely not because every touch he would have had Isaiah McKenzie would have had. And I think that Isaiah was a better fit,” Kirby said. “And Mecole, at times, was our second corner. I don’t have an regret, no. I do regret not getting him any returns.”
Hardman didn’t play in the first two games of the season, but played in the final 11. With McKenzie gone, it appears he’s the player most likely to provide explosion from the Bulldogs’ offense in 2017, or at least the player UGA’s staff would likely to have replace the playmaker.
“He’s fast, but he’s not just straight-line fast,” Kirby said. “He’s got quickness - one-step quickness. He’s quicker than he is fast. He has an elusiveness that gives us something, maybe, that we don’t have offensively right now.”
But replacing McKenzie’s playmaking ability and still having cornerback responsibilities comes with growing pains. Hardman didn’t spend any time last season with the offense, and he’s only playing so much with that side of the ball right now. Kirby said the Bulldogs wouldn’t put Hardman in that situation if he couldn’t handle learning and performing on both sides of the ball.
“Mecole is bright kid,” Kirby said. “You don’t want to do this with a kid who struggles to learn. He doesn’t struggle to learn. He’s got good football intelligence. He picks on things well. He comes in to meet extra. He enjoys it, so you feel like you can challenge him with more information.”