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Jeff Sentell/AJC
UGA DB Mecole Hardman might be making a transition to receiver.

There’s a growing case to keep Mecole Hardman at wide receiver

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant Georgia football news and takes every Monday through Friday. To me, it’s looking more and more like Mecole Hardman should play receiver. 

Track: Man On Fire | Artist: Earl St. Clair | Album: Man On Fire (single)

On the one hand …

I guess I’m part of the problem with ‘this whole Mecole fascination,‘ but this is a damn fine catch by Georgia’s most fascinating defensive back/wide receiver on Thursday in practice, even if it was out of bounds (and against a coach).

Hardman didn’t get many chances to make plays with his hands in high school. He was the quarterback for Elbert County. The reason many Georgia fans have pined to see him make the switch from defense to offense is what he does after the ball is in his hands, not what he does to get the ball in his hands. He showed the speed and slippery ability to escape tacklers. That could make him a wonderful slot guy who can catch and run. Check out some of his high school tape and see for yourself.

His hands were never a big part of the equation. Of course, one highlight from practice — that was out of bounds anyway — doesn’t prove that he can be a great receiver with amazing hands. But it does instill confidence that catching the ball isn’t an area that he’ll be lacking in if coach Kirby Smart decides to switch him to receiver full time.

Although Smart is still noncommittal about where Hardman’s future lies, the potential that switch happens before next season is looking more and more likely, in my opinion. Not only is Hardman making phenomenal plays in practice, but the defense is humming along fine without him. The main reason Smart opted to start training Hardman on defense last season was in preparation for the dearth of corners this season. It wasn’t necessarily because that’s his best position — although, with time, I’m sure he’d be an outstanding DB – but rather because there was the possibility that Georgia would have a shortage at corner. His versatility and athleticism afforded Smart the opportunity to play him where he’s most needed, not where he’s best.

But Georgia doesn’t have that problem at corner anymore, at least not in the short term. Smart signed seven defensive backs in the Class of 2017. Two of them, Richard LeCounte and Deangelo Gibbs, are already on campus and making waves in practice. Gibbs is taking “70-80 percent” of his reps at the nickel corner, while LeCounte has been mainly used at safety. Both are going to play next season and since both are natural defensive backs, both might have played over Hardman.

And with the crisis at corner temporarily resolved, the new issue became receiver. Georgia is still searching for reliable receivers. With the situation at defensive back under control, it only makes sense to try him again on offense, which is seen as his natural position by some who know his game well. Time will tell where Smart decides to play him. But if these type of plays become the norm for Hardman, Smart can’t afford not to stick him at wideout.

Now, let’s enjoy that catch one more time with some slow motion and sepia tone:

Dawgs at the Masters

Russell Henley was the last golfer to receive an invitation to this year’s Masters, but that won’t stop him from staying in the hunt. In the first round, Henley finished the highest of the four former Georgia Bulldogs competing this week, shooting a 1-under 71 to tie for fourth place.

The rest of the Dawgs in the field didn’t do nearly as well as Henley. Two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson finished with a 2-over 74, as did Kevin Kisner. Hudson Swafford finds himself the farthest from the mix of any Bulldog, shooting a 5-over 77 on the first day.

Here are the tee times and pairing of all the former Dawgs in the Masters.

Golfer Tee time Paired with
Hudson Swafford 8:11 a.m. Roberto Castro, Mark O’Meara
Bubba Watson 10:46 a.m. Jimmy Walker
Russell Henley 11:07 a.m. Daniel Summerhays
Kevin Kisner 12:46 p.m. Adam Scott, Andy Sullivan

Note: Some Bulldogs will have already teed off by the time you read this. Check here for a live score.

A.J.’s back

A.J. Green said he’ll be in Athens for G-Day this year.

ICYMI

Good dog

Rabbits are just Easter dogs.