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Mecole Hardman will open preseason camp on offense.

Own the East: Georgia WR Mecole Hardman

Chip Towers

Editor’s Note: It may be time for the Georgia Bulldogs to take back the SEC East in 2017. We’ve featured the most important UGA players, coaches, fans and staff for the upcoming season in a 20-part video series, which you can binge-watch right here.

ATHENS – Mecole Hardman might not even start. How much he actually plays and exactly how he fits in is unknown. But between need and potential, there is not a more fascinating figure on Georgia’s roster, and certainly none more intriguing.

Hardman is going to play wide receiver for the Bulldogs this fall. That in and of itself is a revelation. He signed with Georgia from Elbert County High School as a cornerback and arrived at UGA as a 5-star prospect. But Hardman had been unable to get on the field regularly for Georgia as a freshman defensive back. That seemed a tremendous waste to the Bulldogs coaching staff considering the burst Hardman had displayed with the football in his hands.

Meanwhile, with Isaiah McKenzie entering the NFL draft as a junior, Georgia found itself with a void not only at the slot position – where McKenzie led the team in receptions and receiving yards – but also on kick returns. The thought is that Hardman can help them in both areas.

After vacillating whether to play Hardman on both sides of the ball or making the transition to full-time receiver, coach Kirby Smart finally committed to moving Hardman to offense after spring practice. Hardman worked with the wideouts all summer and will open preseason camp on offense.

“I think that’s safe to say,” Smart said at SEC Football Media Days in July.

It still remains a risky proposition. Georgia doesn’t possess a sure thing on defense with regard to a lockdown cornerback, which Hardman was recruited there to become. Meanwhile, his experience as a receiver is limited to the work he got there in the spring and summer. In high school, Hardman played almost exclusively as a run-oriented quarterback.

To date, Hardman’s only statistical impression as a Bulldogs player is 6 tackles in 11 games and one 17-yard kickoff return. The hope – and need – for Georgia is that his production increases exponentially this season, and fast.

Click here to see more of “Own the East,” our 2017 season preview of the Georgia Bulldogs in video form.

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