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Ex-FSU tackle Hardrick wants to play at USF

20

August

He still has to find out if he's been accepted academically, but if offensive tackle Matt Hardrick has his choice, he'll be part of the football program at USF for the next four years.

"After going out and seeing their practice, I felt real comfortable. There's a lot of intensity and competition, and I like that," said Hardrick, a 6-foot-5 ,325-pound tackle who was dismissed from Florida State's football program two weeks ago. "I definitely like Coach (Jim) Leavitt, and I appreciate that he's taking into consideration that I'm looking for a fresh start."

Leavitt and his staff are still looking into whether they want Hardrick, who was arrested in his hometown of Orlando in April and charged with misdemeanor counts of trespassing on school grounds and possession of marijuana. Hardrick, who would have three years of eligibility after sitting out the 2007 season, said he's hoping to turn things around on and off the field, having dropped 45 pounds from his highest weight of 370 pounds in Tallahassee.

"I'd like to condition myself a lot better," said Hardrick, who was a four-star recruit two years ago out of Orlando's Edgewater High. "This spring, I felt like I was back in high school, moving around a lot better."

The only other school he seriously considered was Central Florida, which he said offered him a scholarship after he visited a practice last weekend. His mother talked with coaches from Florida Atlantic and he spoke once with the offensive line coach from South Carolina, but that was the extent of his interest there. Hardrick has familiar faces at USF -- he played with running back Mike Ford and walk-on linebacker Josh Soto at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia in 2005, and went to high school with defensive back Tyller Roberts; the two have been friends for more than a decade.

There hasn't been any detailed reporting of his April arrest, which wasn't reported from FSU outlets until his dismissal earlier this month. On April 29, Orange County sheriff's officers responded to a suspicious car parked at Lockhart Middle School at about 1:15 a.m., finding a four-door Nissan sedan parked near the school track with its lights off.

Inside they found two females, ages 20 and 18, and Hardrick, 20, who was a passenger in the car, according to the arrest report. While interviewing the driver, the officer noticed "an odor of marijuana coming from her person and breath" and found the same on the other female passenger. The officer reported "a green leafy substance and seeds all over the seat and floorboard directly where the defendant was sitting." The marijuana confiscated was listed as 0.01 grams -- basically a minimum amount, roughly 2,840 times smaller than a single ounce, for comparison.

According to the report, Hardrick "refused to answer any questions concerning the marijuana. However, he did stated (sic) that he plays football for Florida State University and he was on the school grounds to run on the track." Officers called the school resource officer, who came to the scene and said none of the people in the car had permission to be on the property.

Just to update: I had the chance Monday afternoon to speak with Robert Prunty, who coached Hardrick at Hargrave Military, and asked him what his memories of Hardrick were: "Matt was a great kid. We're very strict here, up at 6 a.m., lights out at 10. I really enjoyed my time with Matt, never had a problem with him. He was one of our best kids here." Hardrick lined up at left tackle at Hargrave and weighed about 340, Prunty said. And Mike Ford? "Phenomenal," Prunty said. "He just plays hard, every day, and he's very coachable."

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:34am]

    

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