Do not ever doubt Rodney Garner.
The big hole in this 2020 recruiting class for the Tigers has been up front on the defensive side of the ball. Throughout this cycle though Auburn fans have been able to reassure themselves that things will likely end up ok because Rodney Garner is as good a closer as there is in this crazy world of recruiting. He didn’t disappoint.
This morning, in a ceremony at his high school gym, 4* DL Jay Hardy announced his pledge to the Auburn Tigers.
110% Committed pic.twitter.com/LTJFH0iQE1— Jay Hardy (@_Chilloutjay) November 6, 2019
Hardy’s final five included Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Tennessee but this had become a Tiger/Volunteer battle. Hardy took an official visit to the Plains this past weekend but the prevalent thought heading into his announcement was that he was all Vol. His 247 Crystal Ball was 100% Big Orange as was Rivals FutureCast.
Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown should be credited with assists on this recruitment as their incredible 2019 campaigns were a major selling point to Hardy. That along with Hardy’s strong relationships with the coaching staff and the opportunity to see the field early was enough to swing this battle into Auburn’s favor.
Hardy is the prototype Rodney Garner DL recruit. The Tigers like to slide in out of odd and even man fronts which means they have to be able to line up all across the line and both be effective in 2 gap and 1 gap schemes. Garner likes to recruit long, strong athletes who can not only set the edge on the outside but slide inside and eat double teams. That’s exactly what Hardy brings to the table.
A massive athlete at 6’5” 290 lbs, his game is very similar to Marlon Davidson’s coming out of high school. He’s not necessarily going to be a dominant pass rusher (especially out the gate) but he most definitely will be a force in the run game. What jumps out on his tape is how he uses his hands. Often times high school defensive lineman can get by on brute strength to dominate but while Hardy can do that too, he also demonstrates the ability to get separation with great hands instead of just bowling over undersized lineman. Those type of skills translate to the next level.
For the third time this cycle, Auburn has pulled a shocker. The first came when JUCO 3* OT Kilian Zierer committed to the Tigers out of the blue this past summer when many thought he was a UCLA lean. Then next came when 4* S Chris Thompson chose the Tigers over the instate Longhorns. Now Auburn lands Hardy over the instate Vols. There might be frustration in the fanbase but Gus Malzahn’s staff’s message continues to resonate with elite prospects across the country.
There is obviously more work to be done on the defensive line but this is a massive step in the right direction. Hardy joins 3* DL Daniel Foster-Allen as the only DL commits in the 2020 class. The Tigers will take at least one more, possibly a 2nd plus a Buck prospect. 4* DE Zykeivous Walker was on campus this past weekend as well with Hardy. He is thought to be a major UGA lean but the same was said of Hardy with Tennessee. Auburn fans should also keep an eye on former Texas commit 4* DL Princely Umanmielen, 4* DT McKinnley Jackson and JUCO 3* DT Marquis Burks as possible final additions to this DL class.
Hardy’s commitment jumps Auburn back into 247 Composite’s top 10 rankings. They fell out following Trenton Simpson’s decommit but now look poised again to land a top 10 class. Auburn heads into November now with some massive home games that will likely attract a ton of top talent. A big opportunity for this staff to close strong not only on the field but on the recruiting trail too.