Regular readers of Dawg Sports know that, collectively, we love offensive linemen more than anything besides barbecue and bourbon. That's why it's great news that the Bulldogs picked up a commitment from an instate 2015 offensive lineman who might play either offensive tackle or guard. At any given moment we need more linemen, and with today's commitment from Marist standout Sage Hardin we have one more.
Hardin is a 6'6, 260 pounder headed into his senior season. You can see his junior highlights here:
One thing that bears pointing out. You'll notice that Marist's offensive linemen set up in a four point stance (with both hands in the dirt) rather than a three point stance (just one hand). The reason for this is that it helps those linemen get more weight forward and when they come off the ball do so faster and at a lower angle. In run-first offenses it's a pretty common thing and a very good idea. It's a hard stance to pass block out of, which is why you virtually never see this at the collegiate level.
That makes Hardin looks like he has better feet when run blocking in this video than he probably does. If you compare him to other prospects coming out of a balanced three point stance, he looks like he's being shot out of a cannon. If you watch closely on one play you'll even see the 6'6 guy get down on all fours and execute the "scramble block" that a lot of triple option teams use with smaller offensive linemen.
That being said, Hardin's foot speed and leg drive are above average. The thing I like most about his run blocking is how well he gets to the second and third levels. He's rarely blocking guys in this video who are even close to a physical match for him. So it's hard to say how physical he is against good competition. I can only assume that the reason Hardin got an offer after his Mark Richt Camp performance on June 14th was that he answered the staff's questions about that against elite competition. If he was physical enough for Coaches Richt and Friend, he's physical enough for me.
Hardin's pass blocking is a little uneven. Part of this may be because Coach Alan Chadwick has been winning football games running the wishbone at Marist for a long time. He coaches this run-first offense well, and the Marist offensive line probably spends a lot less time pass blocking than the average high school offensive line these days. When Hardin pass blocks he has a tendency to get "happy feet", coming out of his stance and sort of picking up and putting down his feet while trying to figure out which way the pass rusher will be going.
It's in the moments when an offensive tackle with this affliction has his feet out of position that good pass rushers change direction en route to decapitating the quarterback. By contrast, the next time you're goofing around on Youtube find some video of Jonathan Ogden or Orlando Pace. You'll notice that their feet mirror the pass rusher's quickly and efficiently. There's no wasted motion.
At 260 pounds, Hardin obviously needs to put on some weight to play in the SEC. He's not skinny, but he doesn't have a lot of weight in either the lower or upper body. It's the lack of heft in the lower body that makes me think Hardin may struggle to play tackle in college. I see him more as a mobile guard with good feet who'll eventually play in the 300 pound range. There's nothing wrong with that. We need that. Bad.
The recruiting services aren't crazy about this kid. He's universally regarded by the recruiting services as a three star prospect. College coaches however seem to have taken a different view. In addition to the 'Dawgs, Hardin has offers from (among others) the following: Cal, Duke, Boston College, Miami, Tennessee, Kansas State, Virginia, and . . .Yale.
Is Hardin being pursued by the likes of LSU, Florida State, and Alabama? No, he's not. But it's pretty safe to say young master Hardin will not have trouble getting into school. If like a lot of kids at Marist he's also taking AP classes, I'd bet he's got a real shot at enrolling early.
I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty pleased with this commitment. Is Hardin the highest rated prospect out there? Not by a long shot. But he's a guy who clearly wanted a Georgia offer and came to Athens to earn one. Think back on the guys who have done that along the line over the years. Ben Jones. Clint Boling. This scenario has worked out pretty well for this staff in the past. Hardin has a long way to go physically to compete in the SEC, but has 14 months before he has to. This is a solid pickup that is more likely than not to pay dividends in the long run. I love lamp. But I also love linemen. So you'll hear no complaints from me about Sage Hardin becoming the 13th member of Georgia's class of 2015.