Meet Mecole Hardman Jr., one of the nation’s top athletes for 2016.
Hometown: Elberton, Ga.
High School: Elbert County
40-Yard Dash: 4.42
Rivals Rank: No. 2 Athlete, No. 15 Overall Player
Scout Rank: No. 1 Athlete, No. 11 Overall Player
247Sports Rank: No. 3 Athlete, No. 83 Overall Player
247Sports Composite Rank: No. 1 Athlete, No. 21 Overall Player
He played quarterback for Elbert County, but the Elberton, Ga. native is much more than that. His acceleration is like watching a Lamborghini race a go-kart. As a defensive back, he has good hands, feet and quickness, but he’ll have to improve his tackling mechanics. He can play on the defensive side of the ball, but Hardman is too gifted not to put the ball in his hands. His ability to stop on a dime and change direction baffles defenders. Hardman is tenacious when he runs and could easily have a huge impact as a freshman wherever he goes.
On Jan. 3, Hardman named Alabama as his leader, but he’s long been projected to go to Georgia. He has a good relationship with UGA commit Jacob Eason, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback, and the two of them would be lethal in Athens, Ga.
There has been a lot of contact between Hardman and the Florida Gators. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has been the main recruiter for Hardman, and the 5-foot-10, 170-pound athlete said Florida is looking at him as a defensive back. As it usually does, the race for Hardman will come down to which position he wants to play. Although, it’s hard not to imagine the damage he could do on offense.
Hardman spoke recently about Michigan still being in the running for his recruitment, and he mentioned that he loved the way the Wolverines used Jabrill Peppers on both sides of the ball. What’s funny is Hardman actually has shades of Peppers in his game. Both are dynamic with the ball in their hands and have the explosiveness to take it to the house when they see daylight. Like Peppers, Hardman is physically gifted on the defensive side of the ball, too. He has the burst to jump routes and the footwork to keep pace with just about any wide receiver.
Jim Harbaugh is building something special in Ann Arbor, Mich. He already flipped Kareem Walker, the nation’s No. 1 running back, from Ohio State. He’s in the mix to land a commitment from defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the No. 1 recruit in the 2016 cycle. And Michigan is also targeting 2017 4-star quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, brother of Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season. Hardman could go to Michigan and be put in position to make plays on both sides of the ball. More importantly, he could be a part of something special in Ann Arbor.
It’s always tough to leave home, and the idea of playing in front of your friends and family is an attractive one. Hardman knows Kirby Smart from Alabama, but the biggest bait has to be Eason. The primtime quarterback prospect could very well be one of the biggest factors in getting Hardman to Athens. Smart is on the verge of landing a top 15 recruiting class, which would be huge in establishing his tenure at UGA. Alabama and Georgia are the two teams fighting the hardest for the 5-star athlete. But Hardman and Eason could be the one-two punch Bulldogs fans have been waiting to see for a long, long time.