Jay Hardy grew up coming to Tennessee games and cheering for the Vols. Visiting Rocky Top as a recruit feels a little bit different, though. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end from McCallie School in Chattanooga (Tenn.) was among several 2020s invited this weekend as part of a mini-junior day. As Jeremy Pruitt looks to wrap up the 2019 class, Tennessee is already working to make moves with its next group of targets. “I know a lot about Tennessee,” Hardy told VolQuest. “I have a long connection. I came to every home game. Watching when I was young, that’s what I wanted to be. Playing out there (inside Neyland Stadium). Now it’s kind of come to life.”
Hardy’s older brother was former Tennessee fullback Kevin Cooper, who started 25 games for the Vols from 2007-10. Hardy, who is ranked No. 213 nationally and No. 11 in the Volunteer State, picked up his offer from Tennessee in December, as UT joined Georgia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, LSU and Stanford, among others, targeting the Chattanooga lineman. “They told me I’m one of the best kids in the state,” Hardy said. “My other offers show that I am one of the best in the country. It makes me want to just keep working hard.” Saturday’s visit was an opportunity for Hardy to see a different side of Tennessee than as a 12-year-old fan. He toured the facilities and spent 1-on-1 time with Pruitt and position coach Tracy Rocker, who he’s been in regular communication with since earning the offer.
“I liked riding around campus, seeing all the facilities. Get a little view of how the students live their life here,” he said. “Coach Pruitt told me he’s recruiting good students and good football players, and I’m both. He said I fit the need for Tennessee as a d-lineman. Coach Rocker told me I can make a difference as a end in the 3-4 and 4-3 playing d-tackle.” The visit was also an opportunity to be around several other priority in-state targets like 5-star outside linebacker Reggie Grimes II, 4-star athlete Tyler Baron and 4-star offensive tackle Marcus Henderson, as well as 4-star quarterback commit Harrison Bailey. Pruitt gathered all the juniors in town Saturday and had a direct message to the group. “We had a meeting and coach (Pruitt) said we have a quarterback, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2020 class, now it’s about everything else. Our (2020) class is the class to win a national championship at Tennessee.” While Tennessee will be heavily involved throughout the process, Hardy is in no rush to make a decision anytime soon. He has a very busy upcoming visit schedule — Kentucky (Jan. 25), Georgia (Feb. 2), Virginia Tech (Feb. 8) — with more trips planned this spring (Clemson, Florida and Vandy), too. “I’ll start narrowing stuff down a little bit in the middle of the summer and then commit at the end of my senior season next December,” he said