College football’s top assistant coach is honored with the Broyles Award every year. Defensive coordinators like Mississippi State’s Bob Shoop, Penn State’s Brent Pry, Wisconsin’s Jim Leonhard and Clemson’s Brent Venables rank among the best defensive minds in the game today, but there’s one name that, in my opinion, deserves recognition before any of them.
Auburn’s Rodney Garner is an SEC legend. An All-SEC and All-American selection for the Tigers in his playing days, the associate head coach and defensive line coach churns out elite defenders like an assembly line. Here’s a short list of his prodigies over the years: Jeff Holland. Carl Lawson. Dee Ford. Charles Johnson. Robert Geathers. Geno Atkins. Richard Seymour. Marcus Stroud. David Pollack.
Garner’s prowess for grooming talent is making Auburn, Alabama the spot for NFL scouts to mine gold these days. Guys like Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson are near-locks to be first-round draft picks in 2020, and there’s a ton of talent still in the pipeline.
With the surprise commitment of McCallie School’s Jay Hardy, you can add another disruptor to Garner’s incredibly talented defensive front with the Auburn Tigers.
4-Star DE Jay Hardy Signs with Auburn
Hardy is a four-star recruit from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, the No. 3 strong side defensive end in America was expected remain in-state and commit to the University of Tennessee Volunteers — 247Sports‘ Crystal Ball Predictions listed Tennessee as a 100 percent lock to land him.
From five finalists, including Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Tennessee, the big-name defensive lineman grabbed a white Auburn hat during his announcement, and his family stood up to reveal they were all wearing AU t-shirts.
Hardy made his official visit to Auburn in November and committed on Wednesday, November 6 just a few days later.
“It was a really close fight. But Auburn really came up with it. It was a family feeling. My parents liked it from the first day that they visited and they still love it. And that was another thing, they were telling me to still visit Auburn. I might not have even went to Auburn, but they pushed me to take an official and that’s when it happened.”
— Jay Hardy, via WTVC News
The McCallie Blue Tornadoes were Tennessee’s No. 2 high school football team, according to MaxPreps. Each of the last two seasons, head coach Ralph Potter led his squad to the state semifinals before finally capturing the 2019 Division II Class AAA state championship after an 11-2 season. Hardy had two sacks in the state title game and was named All-State by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association as a senior.
Needless to say, Garner and head coach Gus Malzahn were pumped to add the program’s 19th commitment for their 2020 recruiting class.
Get ready, Auburn football fans. The SEC’s next pass rushing prodigy is “110% committed” to being on The Plains for the 2020 college football season.
UPDATE (January 20, 2020): Auburn officially announced Hardy’s signing in January. He joins Zykeivous Walker (Ellaville, GA) and Daniel Foster-Allen (Mobile, AL) as the Tigers’ newest batch of defensive linemen for the 2020 recruiting cycle.
This post was originally published November 6, 2019. It was updated after Hardy officially announced that he signed his National Letter of Intent to join Auburn University in January 2020.