Elbert County has one of the most unique stadiums anywhere. Period. It seats over 15,000 fans and the bowl-shaped stage was built with over 100,000 tons of Elberton granite. It will just be hard to take in a game there this fall and pay much attention to the view.
That’s how special a player Mecole Hardman is. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder stacks up on 247sports’s board as the nation’s No. 4 athlete among rising seniors this fall. He’s slotted as the No. 70 overall player in the country.
Hardman was the most impressive prospect at Saturday evening’s Mark Richt Football Camp and he did it by showing off his vast array of skills. He was a marquee attraction on a night that saw almost 500 prospects work out for the coaching staff. The theme of the evening was versatility. The compelling stories came from a handful of recruits who shined at multiple positions.
5 TAKEAWAYS FROM SATURDAY IN ATHENS AT MARK RICHT FOOTBALL CAMP
1. Hardman. Hardman. Hardman. Hardman: There was a one-on-one drill where he was lined up at corner and his assignment tried to get him with a fly route.
“C’mon, man,” Hardman said. “A fly route? Come on, coach. You know I’m too fast for that.”
He wasn’t bragging. Hardman was faster than everybody on Saturday night. He was so busy shuffling back and forth between receiver and cornerback that it took a lot of athleticism to pull off. Receivers coach Bryan McClendon had him. Then it was defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s turn.
When it was his turn to play corner, Pruitt even told him “That was perfect” on one occasion. Where should he play if he chooses Athens over serious interest from Auburn, Miami (Fla.) and Tennessee? Who cares. Just get him in the building.
Word spread around the camp he ran the 40-yard dash just one time on Saturday night and then dropped the microphone like a performer that didn’t need to say anymore. The time was a reported 4.35 seconds.
The fastest and most electric player in Athens also expended the most energy. He was there to get better and compete. He’s a fast guy. No doubt. There’s no question he’s also a football player. He has punted at Elbert County and spent last season at quarterback. He’s amassed 27 touchdowns and more than 2,700 rushing yards in the process across the last two seasons.
Its reckless to say he could be another Champ Bailey at Georgia. That’s not fair to either party. The reality is he can be the first Mecole Hardman. Write that name down. Circle it. Boldface it. He is a must-have for the Class of 2016.
2. FSU commitment gets a lot of love in Athens: Just how talented is Florida State commitment Jamel Cook? Let’s preface the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder’s skill set with a real football example. Miami Central played two-time defending Alabama state champion Hoover last year for a season-opening game on ESPNU.
He walked over to the edge and lined up on an All-State candidate at receiver on his way to Mississippi State and covered him all around the field in man coverage. Cook work Saturday night at receiver and cornerback. He lined up several times with Hardman. Both guys were going back and forth on both sides of the position drill.
He’s another one of those talents a Power 5 staff just hope to get in the building and figure out his position later.
Is he wavering? That remains to be seen, but it appears his stop in Athens was part of a summer camp tour that saw him in Auburn earlier in the week.
3. Remember the name Holden Thompson: Thompson has as much seasoning to his game as a truck stop steak. His name shows up on no recruiting boards. He has no stars. There are good reasons for that. His former head coach had to talk him into playing football last season. He had not played the game since middle school. He only got a few reps last year at receiver.
So we are only just beginning to see the potential of a 2016 prospect who was mostly a baseball and basketball player growing up. He’s not quite at the 6-foot-2 mark on the height chart and weighs about 205 pounds.
But here comes the good part: The athleticism he showed during tests Saturday night turned heads. He ran his 40-yard dash in under 4.6 seconds and looked like he had Inspector Gadget’s legs on his vertical leap test. He was measured at 40 inches.
His work during one-on-one drills gave just glimpses. He didn’t get off the ball anywhere near enough to be an SEC receiver. The thoughts of putting an athlete like that on the field at linebacker will surely dance in the minds of the college coaches who will evaluate him over the summer.
New East Paulding coach Joe Lindsay was an assistant at Camden County from 2005-2010.
“We didn’t have an athlete like Holden when I was at Camden County,” he said. “He’s not afraid of contact so that is going to give him the ability to play a lot of positions. I think he can be a physical dominating receiver and I think he can also flip over on defense because he is physical and athletic.”
Thompson has long arms which belong on a 6-foot-4 frame. Lindsay recalled the first time he saw Thompson really cut loose during his team’s “Super Raider” conditioning test.
“I watched him run and then I pulled his transcripts and thought if this kid can’t play college football then nobody can,” said Lindsay, who told the AJC Thompson has a 3.5 grade-point average in the classroom.
He has no college offers as of yet, but that should change. Soon.
4. The other big recruiting news of the day didn’t take place on a practice field: It came from a tweet from Archer standout Kyle Davis regarding his short-term recruiting timeline. He shared a nugget that pertained to him and heavy UGA target Elijah Holyfield. Both are very high on Georgia’s board for the Class of 2016.
5. Mark the calendar for July 18: That’s the exclusive “Dawg Night” in Athens which will serve as the big bone of the summer recruiting season. There will be commitments and top targets holding offers all over the practice fields. Saturday night’s crop was decent, but it was beefed up with some filler players that will not receive a scholarship offer from the SEC. “Dawg Night” will feature match-ups like Cook vs. Hardman all over the field with every rep.
ALSO: The big recruiting news of the weekend came with the commitment of McEachern junior quarterback Bailey Hockman. He committed to Georgia on Friday morning and then had a great showing at the 7-on-7 tournament that day. Check out the video below to get the 411 on Hockman in the time it takes to drink a latte.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.