December 30, 2008

Do the Rebels have room for Hardy?

The clock may be ticking for Monticello (Lawrence County), Miss. four-star running back Kendrick Hardy, and the clock is not for his forty-yard dash time; it's on how long Ole Miss will hold a place for him on the Rebels 2009 signing class roster.

Hardy, currently in San Antonio to participate in the US Army All-American Bowl, was at the Alamo Bowl on Monday night, but took time to talk with about his recruitment.

"I'm not sure if I called up and tried to commit to Ole Miss if they'd accept my commitment," Hardy said. "I know they (the Ole Miss recruiting class) are getting full."

Rebel head coach Houston Nutt told last spring that he would sign two running backs - and emphasized that would be his goal for each recruiting class.

A look at Ole Miss' current commitment list shows why Hardy, once thought to be at or near the top of Ole Miss' wish list for all prospects - not just running backs - could be left out on signing day.

The Rebels have four running backs listed as commitments and two other athletes - junior college prospect Demond Washington and Stephen Houston - who also could compete for time carrying the football. As a freshman at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Washington rushed 172 times for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. He moved to defense as a sophomore, recording 55 tackles and three interceptions. Meanwhile, Houston has spent his high school career at running back, amassing some impressive stats that included 1,500 rushing yards as a junior.

While the tendency among some fans is to categorize players as listed on, it is likely that Ole Miss is recruiting several prospects listed as running backs for other positions. Take for instance Korvic Neat, another prospect who is committed and listed as a running back. Neat is very similar to current Rebel wide receiver Dexter McCluster, who has seen action this fall at quarterback, wide receiver, and running back and appears to be a target who will eventually have the opportunity to replace McCluster, who will be a senior next fall.

Among those committed and listed at running back, it's likely that Rodney Scott (5-foot-9, 185) is considered a true running back and Tim Simon, who was once rumored to perhaps end up at linebacker, has also emerged as a candidate for the Rebel backfield with a strong performance in the state playoffs and at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game earlier this month.

What is not known in addition to where some committed prospects will end up, is exactly which ones will be on the signing day roster.

Houston is reported to have academic issues and Gabriel Hunter didn't have the season many expected after suffering a knee injury in the early part of the season. While Scott, once an Auburn commit, appears solid after his official visit to Ole Miss earlier this month, the same can't be said of Simon. Several schools are coming on hard for his services. He has official visits set up for Kentucky, Tennessee, and Clemson.

Simon, at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds is the only committed prospect who is physically close to Hardy in appearance. Hardy is 6-foot, 210 and ranked the No. 8 running back nationally while Simon, who flew under the radar for much of the fall, is ranked No. 47.

While the foregoing is a situation that coaches will have to work through, they have some what of a luxury with the team losing only one key member out of the backfield - fullback Jason Cook - and likely will use some personnel currently on the roster - such as Derrick Davis or even perhaps Brandon Bolden - at fullback. They also signed a true fullback last February in H.R. Greer, who was redshirted this season and has been singled out by Nutt in bowl practices for his development while former walk-on Andy Hartmann returns for his senior season next year.

Meanwhile, Hardy is relatively impervious to the Rebels' situation with the signing class and any efforts to get him in the fold early.

"I'm still going to wait until after I take my Southern Miss trip before I commit," Hardy said.

He is scheduled to visit Southern Miss on Jan. 16.

Hardy said he last talked to the staff about two weeks ago and he understands that by waiting to make a commitment, he could lose his place in the class.

"I hope that doesn't happen, but if it does, I guess I'll just have to make other plans," he said.

Hardy said in a previous interview that Ole Miss and Southern Miss are currently the only two schools that are recruiting him in earnest.

Ole Miss currently has 24 commits, is permitted to have 25 on scholarship next fall from the February signing class, and is expected to receive approximately four to seven more commitments before National Signing Day on Feb. 4. The staff could over sign by two or three; however, it is likely that there will be some movement of committed prospects before signing day.

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