Georgia’s No. 1 kicker is a Gator.
Marist’s Austin Hardin auditioned at three football camps this summer, going 3 for 3 with offers from Tennessee, Auburn and Florida. He committed to Gators coach Will Muschamp while on campus on Wednesday.
“Coach Muschamp told me from his staff’s evaluation of me, and from what he heard from others, he considered me the best specialist in the nation,” Hardin told the AJC. “He put the offer out there for me, and said ‘We’d like you to come to Florida. You can come in right away and start off kickoffs.’
“I was very excited. This was the offer I had been waiting for. I told some other schools that I was going to wait until the end of July to commit. But I had been to enough camps and seen enough. I always knew I wanted to play at Florida so I committed. I didn’t want to drag it out any longer. I told Coach Muschamp that I was ‘100-percent Gator’ and happy to be part of the team.”
Ironically, Hardin almost ended up at UGA.
The Marist kicker became a household name in recruiting circles after booting a 59-yard field goal with three seconds remaining in a win over Southwest DeKalb last season. His personal kicking coach is Rex Robinson, the most famous kicker in UGA history, along with Kevin Butler.
Georgia was one of the first schools to aggressively recruit Hardin. However, UGA special teams coach John Lilly decided to first offer Marshall Morgan, who quickly committed last January. Morgan is a top kicker out of Florida.
“Georgia talked about offering me and wrapping things up, and the next thing I know they offered Marshall,” Hardin recalled. “I’m glad that happened because when it’s all said and done, I’m at the place that I want to be. If Georgia had offered early, I might’ve felt pressured and committed to them. I guess Marshall was the guy they wanted, and I’m glad it worked out for him there. Instead, I ended up having to wait but I’m going to where I want to be.”
Hardin has one of the strongest legs in state history. He made 13 of 20 field goals last season; the seven he missed were either attempts of 50 yards or longer, or blocked. He converted every PAT attempt, and blasted every kickoff out of the end zone, except for when Marist was trying a specialty kickoff, such as an onsides kick.
At Auburn camp, Hardin had an 87-yard kickoff with a 4.3-second hang time, earning an offer from Auburn coach Gene Chizik. At Florida, Hardin averaged around 75 yards per kickoff, with a 4.1 hang time.
Why hadn’t you heard of Hardin until last year? Before last season, Hardin played behind Marist’s Justin Moore, who signed a football scholarship with Georgia Tech.
Harden canceled plans to attend camps at Alabama and Virginia after committing to Florida.
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog Got a recruiting item? firstname.lastname@example.org
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