Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Rodney Hardrick

Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Rodney Hardrick

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Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Rodney Hardrick

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Rodney Hardrick
LB – 6-1, 225, 4.53
Colton, Calif. (Colton HS)

2010 stats:

tight end: 41 catches for 808 yards and 10 touchdowns  

outside linebacker: 98 total tackles (69 solo), 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, 7 pass deflections, 4 forced fumbles 2 fumble recoveries

Team Record: 12-3, CIF Southern Section Champions

photo at left: Hardrick snares a touchdown pass, although he’ll be preventing them for the Ducks (Robert Whitehead photo)

Rodney Hardrick scored three times on defense last season. On his two interceptions, he returned the first one 55 yards for a td against Arroyo Valley, the second one for 48 yards.  He recovered two fumbles, both for touchdowns, returning one 16 yards for a score against Chaffey High, two weeks later for 33 yards and a scoop-and-score against Bloomington.  You comb through his defensive stats and highlight video, and you start to think this kid could be a young Bo Lokombo.  And that’s a good thing to be.

Like Garrick and Cassell, Hardrick perfectly fits the profile of the Oregon linebackers in the blur defense.  He has good size for a high school player, and he can run and hit.  The offensive experience and accomplishments are always a real plus; Chip loves versatile athletes, and guys that have that background tend to more aggressive, a heat-seeking missile for turnovers and defensive big plays.  They get their hands on the ball, and when they do, the casual fans are surprised to see him trucking down the field like a fullback or receiver.  Remember Michael Clay, rumbling 64 yards against Oregon State with the fake punt?  Ex-fullback and linebacker at Bellarmine Prep.  Guys who were achievers in high school on offense as well as defense are always a bonus.  They’re just more athletic and opportunistic in their play, ballhawks.  John Boyett was a standout running back and dual threat quarterback in high school.  Cliff Harris made some plays at wide receiver.  It shows when the ball is in the air.

Rodney didn’t have the huge hype coming out of Colton, but there’s a lot to like about him as a Duck.  Beginning with the fact that he’s a Duck.  Play one of his video you start to see it, as he lines up at weakside linebacker and pursues the quarterback all the way across the field to force a hurried pass.  As the quarterback scrambles right, Hardrick sheds the scrum in a tightly-packed pocket, takes a perfect contain angle and runs him down.   Nice energy, good instincts.  Next play is at the goal line, and Hardrick defends his house with a sack and a fumble.  Very Lokombo-like.  At :51 he again displays excellent lateral movement in run defense.  The opponent’s best athlete takes a center snap on a Wildcat-type play, and Hardrick flows across the formation to keep it to a short gain.  Again at 1:51, sheds a block, swarms to the ball from strongside linebacker.  2:10, knifes it on a run blitz, tackle for loss.  Good recognition, very decisive.  Too many young linebackers just chop their feet and wait for the play to come at them.  Hardrick attacks.  Much more effective.  He sorts out a play really well; there’s a good connection between his brain and his feet.  Some players can only use them one at a time.  At 2:50 he goes low from the Will position to smother an off tackle play on the other side.  Great quickness and desire.  He’s a smart, physical linebacker, the best kind.

Just before signing day Lindsay Schnell of oregonlive.com had a great profile of Hardrick with an interesting story from his coach:

There are currently two Colton High School graduates on the Ducks’ roster: Kicker Alejandro Maldonado and defensive back Derrick Malone, who just completed their freshmen seasons. Each winter at Colton, football players signing letters of intent gather in the school gymnasium for an assembly, celebrating their athletic success with fellow students and teachers. Last February, Hardrick watched as Malone and Maldonado pledged their loyalty to the Ducks. This year, Colton High School coach Richard Bray tried to convince Hardrick to simply sign his letter in the principal’s office without the fanfare. Hardrick wasn’t interested.

“He said, ‘There’s no way,'” Bray laughed. “These guys have been watching their teammates do it for years and now it’s their turn to be celebrated.”

In Hardrick the Ducks will get a player Bray describes as one of the best leaders to come out of his program.

“He’s a team player and he has great leadership abilities,” Bray said. “He’s going to do whatever he needs to get help Oregon continue the success they’ve been having.”

On the field, Bray said Hardrick is a quick study who thrives off his knowledge of the game.

“It’s all about his reads,” Bray said. “He’ll study formations to the point that he can call out an offensive play before they snap the ball. He picks up tendencies very quickly. He’s a great student of the game.”

Hardrick had offers from offers from Oregon State, Washington, New Mexico and Idaho. He’s from San Bernardino county, like Duck defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, although their schools don’t play in the same classification.  Max Williams of Duck Territory interviewed Hardrick last week, and the freshman OLB recruit told Williams how excited he was to join the Ducks and start playing football again.

Hardrick already has two friends on the team “I’m very, very close with two players who went there last year Derrick Malone and Alejandro Maldonado)”. Those two were very helpful to him, “I talked to them all the time. There’s some things you don’t think about as an incoming recruit that they helped me out with” Hardrick said. He also added that having those guys there was just an “extra bonus” and didn’t play a big factor in him choosing Oregon. Hardrick is also excited to get to know his roommates “I talked to my roommates, Anthony Wallace, BJ Kelly, and Tra Carson. I’m looking forward to meeting those guys in person and talking to them.”

One of the biggest reasons for Hardrick to choose Oregon was how comfortable he felt in Eugene and with the coaching staff. When asked what he was most excited about getting to Oregon, Hardrick replied “Honestly, just football. I haven’t played a game of football in a while, so I’m pretty excited to get back into regular packages and to the football season”


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