Zay Jones had for the most part been overlooked going into the post season despite record shattering numbers for both most career receptions (399) in NCAA history and most receptions in a single season (158) in NCAA history.Read More
Coming off a record setting college career in a small North Carolina football program, he “upped his stock with a good postseason but isn’t a real speedster, either.” The “5’11 wide receiver who plays taller,” “turned out to be faster than anyone thought.” “Not a burner,” but he did run a “4.56 at the combine.” He’s a “good possession catcher” and a “steady player.”Read More
Justin Hardy hasn't really dominated any one game this season--until today. He's been important, but he hasn't been the only weapon on the ECU Pirates' high-powered offense. Hardy took over today, however, reminding that he's the Pirates' main weapon. Reigning in 8 catches for 120 and 3 TDs, he also continued his march toward breaking the FBS all-time reception record held by Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles (346). He's just 46 receptions away.
An accomplishment noteworthy under any circumstance, it is particularly impressive under Hardy's. From his freshman year, he's show he's a big-time talent that went overlooked. Walking on at ECU, he hauled in 64 catches for 668 yards as a freshman. Last season, Hardy registered a stunning 113 receptions for 1284 yards. His pace was a little behind, but today's performance showed it won't be by much. Saturday's seem to be just another day at the office for Hardy.
How has he done it and how could he contribute to the +Carolina Panthers? He's done it through intelligent route running, insane hands, and football instinct. He can just play.
Hardy works man-coverage well and the zone better. His routes are deceptive and efficient. He never looks to be over-exerting himself. He's economic. He can sit down softly in the zone, providing a reliable target for the quarterback, or he can go and get the ball one-on-one. Just look at these hands:
Did I mention he returns punts as well? He doesn't blow them back for TDs (never took one to the house), but he's reliable and comfortable when opposing teams are bearing down.
Compliment this intelligent, polished receiver to Kelvin Benjamin and hopefully a speedster that can take the top off, and the Panthers offense could cook. Let's keep this "Bayard Baller" home in the Carolinas.
Follow this golden-gloved prospect at CarolinaCatChronicles.com. Visit the Countdown 2 Justin Hardy page.
This wasn't a particularly standout game for Hardy. Some of that should be attributed to the defensive play of Kendell Fuller. Most of this, however, was simply because of poor play by ECU. Hardy didn't seem to be the root of the problem.
What did stand out then? Hardy made a savvy play in the 1st quarter on 2nd and 3 on a deep shot, where he got away with an offensive pass interference and drew a defensive pass interference on Kyle Fuller. Both guys were hand-fighting down the sideline with the ball in the air. Seeing exactly where the official was ahead, Hardy tugged the back of Fuller's jersey with his left hand throwing Fuller off balance a bit. It drew enough contact for the officiating to call interference on Hardy's route. Looking closely at the play, Hardy should have been flagged.
One of the keys to Hardy's game are the little nuances that pay big dividends. The "Man with the Golden Gloves" is a smart receiver. C3 described him as cerebral in Week 1, and it continues to show with this small play that eventually resulted in a touchdown for the Pirates. Another week and another showing that Hardy would be a smart addition to the +Carolina Panthers in 2015.
ECU quarterback, Shane Carden, spread the ball around all night, but Freak Magic made his presence known when his number was called. Beginning with a trick play where he threw a TD, Hardy worked the defensive zone, beat defenders one-on-one, and just did all night what any Backyard Baller is expected to do--Ball Out. What was particularly impressive about Hardy's performance was the economy of effort. He didn't look to be working all that hard. Not to say he wasn't giving his 100%, he just made it look easy. It was a cerebral performance, one that demonstrates his maturation as a player and understanding of the position. The performance certainly kicked off the Justin Hardy to the Queen City campaign bang.
Here's a look at his stat sheet:
Hardy accelerates and feigns a corner feign route, instead button just inside the goal line.
Don’t beat yourself up Panther fans, your next great wide receiver could be right under your nose. Well, 250 miles east under your nose at East Carolina University. Greenville, North Carolina is where NFL recruiters have discovered what two years ago would have been considered a “diamond in the rough.” Enter current ECU Wide Receiver/Punt Returner Justin Hardy. After a jaw dropping sixty-four reception, 658 yard, six touchdown and Conference USA All-Freshman team campaign, Hardy has done nothing but amass two seasons of inspired offensive production—202 receptions and 2,389 yards, averaging over a first down every time he catches the ball and let’s not forget those nineteen touchdowns. Consistent play like this has elevated the 6’1 190 lb Hardy off the list of NFL possible gems and onto a lot of NFL recruiter’s top wide receiver’s board for the 2015 draft.
|Hardy catching TD on Panther CB Melvin White|