ATHENS — The ball keeps getting thrown in Mecole Hardman’s direction. Sometimes he catches it. Sometimes the fledgling receiver doesn’t. That doesn’t change the plan for the Georgia football team.
“We’re going to continue to throw it to him,” coach Kirby Smart said. “We’re not going to not throw it to him.”
Hardman, who had never been a wide receiver in high school or college until this season, is fourth on the team with 7 catches for 58 yards. He offers a speed element that the offense will probably need going forward.
Hardman has had a drop in all but the game against Mississippi State this season. Last week at Vanderbilt, Hardman couldn’t bring in a slant pass over the middle. The week before at Tennessee, it was a sideline pass over his shoulder that slipped through his fingers.
“Mecole’s a work in progress. He’s getting better each week,” Smart said. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. It’s not natural for a guy that didn’t play receiver his whole life to go play receiver.”
Smart blanched at the comparison with Terry Godwin, Georgia’s leading receiver who also played quarterback in high school. Godwin saw action at receiver at Callaway High School. Hardman, on the other hand, did not.
And when Hardman arrived at Georgia last year as a hyped 5-star recruit, he was tried at cornerback. In fact, he stayed there all season, though he didn’t see much action. When this year rolled around, the coaches gradually shifted him to wide receiver. At times he has shown his tantalizing potential there, but he’s also shown that the adjustment isn’t automatic.
“It’s running routes. It’s being comfortable catching the ball. It’s 10 to 15 years of that’s not what he did his whole life,” Smart said. “He’s developing, he’s working hard at it. I think the guy’s going to make a really good player. To be honest with you, we’ve thrown to him in the last couple of weeks in practice. It’s not like he’s got the drops. He just hasn’t had the opportunity. He hasn’t really had an opportunity in a game in a while.”