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“Should I stay or should I go?”
80’s classic from English rock band Clash, or massive looming decision for many juniors on Georgia’s football team? For two Bulldogs, at least, their answers remain up in the air.
Isaac Nauta and Mecole Hardman wouldn’t confirm or deny any inquiries about their decision to stay at Georgia or to forgo their senior seasons for the NFL Draft. The two still have long enough to decide — the deadline to declare for the Draft is January 14.
Nauta said he would decide after the Sugar Bowl, and Hardman said he’s still undecided.
For Nauta and Hardman, though, the decision is arguably much tougher than it would be for surefire first-round picks like teammates Jake Fromm or Deandre Baker, the latter of whom Kirby Smart announced will sit out the bowl game. That, of course, makes the decision process for the two juniors more complicated.
Oh, it’s also Sugar Bowl week, and the Bulldogs face a four-loss Texas team that boasts a head coach with a knack for upsets. So any thoughts about going through the motions from Georgia’s players could spell disaster for a team that twice blew a 14-point lead to Alabama.
“You’ve just got to focus on the right stuff, right now,” Nauta said. “Live in the moment. All that (NFL) stuff will come when it comes, but right now we’re just focusing on playing good and finishing out the year strong.”
For Nauta, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end in Jim Chaney’s offense, one of the biggest issues NFL scouts saw was his reception stats.
The junior grabbed just nine passes (114 yards, two touchdowns) last season, but has already equaled his career-high of 29 receptions in 2018. Blocking-wise, though, the promise is “clearly there,” per The Draft Network’s Jon Ledyard.
Nauta registered a reception in all 13 of the Bulldogs’ games this year, and hauled in three or more passes in five of those contests.
Nauta wouldn’t say much on his decision, and rarely said anything past the fact that he’s “still focused on right now.”
“A lot of it is, I don’t want to talk about it right now,” the Buford native said. “A lot of it is, just focus on playing good right now, and having fun on this trip.”
Both players did say that Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart offered them advice regarding the topic. Nauta said the coach “wants you to do what’s best for you.”
For Hardman, what’s best for him also remains somewhat unclear.
His stats aren’t flashy (the Bowman native has registered 34 catches for 540 yards and six scores on the year), but Hardman led the Southeastern Conference in punt return yards (271) in 2017 and currently leads the nation with 321 yards, with one game still to play.
However, Hardman’s competing for reps in a fairly deep position group with Riley Ridley, Jeremiah Holloman, Terry Godwin and others. And there’s late-season emergence of Tyler Simmons, a junior coming off injury.
“(You look at) the information you get, that people give you,” Hardman said. “As of right now, it’s more of family. ... Could you improve coming back? Is it better leaving? You’ve just got to weigh all of your options, like, would it benefit over this, or benefit over that.”
Smart, according to both Nauta and Hardman, hasn’t tried to convince them one way or the other.
“We have a lot of juniors in the information-gathering stage,” Smart said at a December 17 press conference. “I’ve been meeting with them. We’ve been gathering information. ... I think some of our guys may be close to making a decision, and they like to put it away before the game. But we sort of reserve the right for them to make that decision after the game.”