April 14, 2008

Heisman talk fires up top Mississippi back

Houston Nutt clearly knows what it takes to be a great running back.

Just ask Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, a pair of sure-fire first-round NFL draft picks Nutt recruited and coached at Arkansas.

So when the new Ole Miss coach told Kendrick Hardy Saturday that the Monticello, Miss., running back had what it takes to be a Heisman Trophy candidate, that got Hardy's attention.

"That made me feel good," Hardy said Sunday night. "It encouraged me to do even better."

Hardy, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder who rushed for 2,103 yards and 29 touchdowns on 175 carries last season, spent Saturday visiting with the Ole Miss coaches and watching the Grove Bowl, which the Blue team won, 40-14, in front of a spring-game record crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"It went good," Hardy said. "They seemed nice and like they really wanted me. The campus looked great."

Hardy has offers from several other schools, but the race for his services has a definite Egg Bowl flavor. With that in mind, Hardy admitted that he caught himself comparing Ole Miss to Mississippi State Saturday.

"Ole Miss, I liked it more," Hardy said. "Ole Miss is bigger than Mississippi State. That's a program on the rise."

It helped the Rebels' cause, also, that Hardy's older brother, Wayne, played at Southern Mississippi and knows Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix and Ole Miss running backs coach Derrick Nix from their days in Hattiesburg.

"(Wayne) said they're nice people and that you can trust them," Hardy said.

Hardy said he's going to try to attend camps in Oxford and Starkville this summer, but he admitted that right now, "Ole Miss is kind of sticking out in my mind right now."

Hardy said he thinks he can get on the field quickly at Ole Miss, another factor in the Rebels' favor.

"(Nutt) said it doesn't matter who's the best running back, whether he's a freshman or whatever, he's going to play him," Hardy said.

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