ATHENS, Ga. — For Mecole Hardman, defense remains his future. That doesn’t mean Hardman won’t get the ball on offense, and Georgia coaches are trying to make that happen.
Hardman didn’t play much last year as he learned a cornerback position he didn’t play much in high school. But as Georgia begins spring practice on Tuesday, coach Kirby Smart made clear that Hardman, a 5-star recruit in 247Sports composite rankings in 2016, is someone the team wants to use more.
“We have a plan for Mecole. We want to get some offensive snaps and be able to expose him to some of the concepts,” Smart said, adding: “But it won’t be early in the spring. We’re committed to continuing to develop him as a corner.”
Smart has said before that the team wants to get Hardman the ball, whether it’s on kick and/or offense. He didn’t get any work those assignments last season, so coaches start the process this spring. Smart and staff will re-evaluate Hardman in preseason practice, when the rest of the freshman class arrives — including a handful of other cornerbacks.
“We’ll find out in the fall when we get some more depth in, how much we need him versus on offense,” Smart said.
The open starting role is at the star position. Smart didn’t mention Hardman as a candidate at that spot, but listed four other candidates: sophomore Tyrique McGhee, early enrolling freshmen Deangelo Gibbs and Richard LeCounte, and senior Malkom Parrish, who started the past few seasons at cornerback.
“It’s going to be done by committee,” Smart said, appearing to indicate that would be the case for the spring as they try out multiple players there. “We try to teach the same concept and not specific to a position so that guys can interchange. We’ll do that in the spring.”
Maurice Smith played the star last year and was on the field for about 80 percent of Georgia’s defensive snaps, according to Smart. Smith was a senior and a team captain.