Ole Miss’ Hardy a two-way threat as defensive end and wide receiver

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, September 6, 2007

Besides his duties as coach, Mississippi’s Ed Orgeron also served as a referee during preseason practice as both his offensive and defensive assistants vied for the services of Greg Hardy.

Hardy is the only two-way player in the Southeastern Conference this season.

“Every coach fights for Greg,” Orgeron said. “He can be a great offensive or defensive weapon. He’s that good of a football player and athlete.”

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The defensive end/wide receiver justified his coaches’ attention Saturday in a 23-21 victory over Memphis. Hardy did the work of two players with 11 tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss on defense and a touchdown catch on offense.

And he could have done more damage. A fumble he recovered and returned for a touchdown was wiped out by a replay review and he was open for another touchdown pass, but quarterback Seth Adams didn’t see him.

He also contributed to Dustin Mouzon’s 99-yard interception return for a touchdown by pressuring quarterback Martin Hankins. Hardy was wrapped around Hankins’ legs as he threw the ball.

“He was all over the field,” said Orgeron, whose Rebels host Missouri this week. “He just did a fantastic job for us, and that’s what we expect out of Greg. That’s what we have been seeing all fall camp. He’s very talented, and we are going to use him as much as we can.”

Hardy — whose father, Greg, also played defensive end at Ole Miss — said part of the reason he came to Oxford was the opportunity to play both ways, a once common practice that has mostly disappeared from the modern game.

“I like getting touchdowns,” Hardy said. “Who doesn’t?”

Hardy also likes scoring goals. He played in 15 basketball games last season for Ole Miss as a reserve with his best performance coming against eventual national champion Florida in the SEC tournament. He had six points and seven rebounds.

“We had a shortage of bodies along our front line and he came out and really brought energy and some physicality to our front line,” Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy said.

Neither Kennedy nor Hardy is sure whether the power forward will play again this season, but Hardy has enough to do as it is.

While he makes it look fairly effortless on the field, Hardy’s two-way, two-sport job description has been gained through hard work. After he used his uncanny speed and agility to win the starting left defensive end job last season, coaches let him loose at wide receiver in the final game against Mississippi State.

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Memphis native had his first college catch in that game — for a 23-yard touchdown.

His first experience in the end zone led him to want more. While he missed much of spring practice playing basketball, he began working overtime toward his goal of two-way success in preseason practice.

He splits his time between offensive and defensive meetings and takes every advantage of free time during practice to hone his routes.

“I run both offense and defense during practice,” he said. “When the defense takes a break I go run with the offense.”

Defensive coordinator John Thompson said so far there’s been enough Hardy to go around.

“If we can keep scoring touchdowns, we can share him, give him, whatever,” Thompson said.

“We’re all in this together.”