ATHENS – There were only three additions to Georgia’s signing class on signing day itself. They were all cornerbacks. They made it a total of five cornerbacks in the class, along with two safeties.
Naturally, that brings us to Mecole Hardman.
Hardman was one of the premier members of last year’s class, but hardly ever saw the field at cornerback, a position he was adjusting to after playing mostly offense in high school. And even though Georgia also loaded up at receiver this year, could Hardman move back to offense as a sophomore?
“That’s certainly a good thought,” head coach Kirby Smart said on Wednesday. “It’s been talked about.”
But Smart added that it might be hard to do this spring. Georgia lost nickel back Maurice Smith, who was a senior, and saw the transfers of Rico McGraw, Juwuan Briscoe and Kirby Choates. Who’s left? Smart cited the number of cornerbacks being available this spring as being four. That would appear to definitely include Hardman, the returning starters (Malkom Parrish and Deandre Baker), and top reserve Tyrique McGhee. Then it depends on how you categorize Aaron Davis (a starter at cornerback and safety), Reggie Wilkerson (a reserve at safety and cornerback), and J.R. Reed, a transfer who sat out last year.
“So it’s not a situation where we are going to be able to throw guys out there at corner and move him around,” Smart said of Hardman. “He was developing nicely at corner and we want him to continue to do that. But we’ll have to find ways to get Mecole the ball or use him more on defense because he’s certainly a more skilled athlete.”
So it definitely sounds like Hardman’s situation will bear watching between now and spring practice. If they’d rather have him on offense, would they still keep him at cornerback in the spring just because they’re deficient in numbers there, but only deficient in the spring? That would be surprising.
Smart and Mel Tucker (defensive coordinator and secondary coach) may be worried about the cornerback numbers now, but they should be fine this preseason. And taller.
The current cornerbacks are under 6-feet tall: Hardman is 5-11, Parrish 5-10, Baker 5-11. (Davis, mainly a safety, is 6-1.)
But the five that Georgia signed are all over 6-foot: William Poole (6-0), Latavious Brini (6-2), Ameer Speed (6-3), Eric Stokes (6-1) and Tray Bishop (6-2).
“Length, man. We had to get length,” Smart said, when asked specifically about the signing-day additions of Brini, Speed and Stokes. “I think bulk is a big part of being a good DB nowadays. You’re tackling Nick Chubb and Sony Michel pretty much every week in the SEC. So when you’ve got 180-pound guys, it’s tough if you don’t hit that 200 pound mark. We think we attacked that area.
“We think that we were very successful at getting some longer guys. Will they be ready to play next year? I sure hope so. That’s what they’re hoping, too. They want to come in here and compete. We needed to get longer and bigger to be able to matchup some guys and we hope those guys are able to do it.”