ATHENS — Georgia junior Mecole Hardman heard a voice in his head before reeling off a long overdue 70-yard special teams touchdown Saturday afternoon.
“When I was fixing to catch it, I could hear Coach Smart saying, ‘Oh yeah, you got ‘em, you got ‘em!’ “ Hardman said, asked to recall his 70-yard punt return touchdown against Middle Tennessee.
“So I’m like, I’m going to catch it, [and] when I caught it, I saw the hole and I hit it man, and I had a punter to beat and scored.”
Hardman has gotten off to a blazing start this season with four touchdowns in three games, and now he has that elusive special teams touchdown.
Hardman averaged 11.8 yards on 23 punt returns last season, but his previous long was 30 yards against Auburn last season.
“As a player you always want to get off to a great start,” Hardman said, “and I think I’m doing a good job of starting off right. Hopefully I can keep this pace up throughout the season.”
Hardman is Georgia’s leading receiver with 12 catches for 187 yards and three TD receptions.
Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm, who hit Hardman with a 5-yard TD pass to open the scoring Saturday, said he’s not surprised by Hardman’s success.
“I think it’s a testament to the work he’s put in the offseason, he’s gotten faster, he’s gotten stronger,” Fromm said in the week leading up to the win over the Blue Raiders. “We’re getting the ball to him more and letting him take care of the rest.
“Meco is an exciting player, get the ball in his hands, and let him take care of the rest. He runs by people and he gets the ball 60 or 70 yards down field or he catches the ball at 10 yards and takes it 70 yards to the house.”
Or, he takes a punt 70 yards to the end zone, much to the delight of Smart.
“We felt like if the kid gave us a kick we could return, we’d have a house call,” Smart said. “We talked about it and we all said it was going to happen this game. It happened, so it comes from a lot of reps that went in to that.
“I respect Mecole, he has elite speed, he’s physical, he has a lot more confidence in his hands, and the speed he has, you see it with his ability to make people miss, and he continues to gain confidence.”
Hardman was rated a 5-star cornerback from Elbert County (Georgia) coming to Georgia, though he was better known as a high school quarterback who returned kicks and played safety.
Smart, however, moved him to offense prior to the 2017 season and the transition appears almost complete.
Georgia football WR Mecole Hardman
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