Marcus Hardison can chase down quarterbacks with 4.8 speed.
The fourth round has been kind to Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes.
Eleven-year end-tackle Robert Geathers (2004). Nose tackle and de facto defensive captain Domata Peko (2006). Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins (2010). Hayes can only hope he's caught lightning in a bottle again with Arizona State three technique Marcus Hardison.
"I like getting my guys there," Hayes agreed.
The 6-3, 311-pound Hardison has been called a "one-year wonder" but what a year it was this past season with ten sacks and six turnovers. He played up and down the line for the Sun Devils at all positions, but Hayes is going to put him behind Atkins at the three technique and hope his raw measurables translate into a NFL penetrating tackle like he showed late this past season.
There are some similarities to Atkins. Hardison ran a remarkable 4.88-second 40-yard dash and the one 300-pounder Hayes remembers breaking a sub 40 was Atkins' riveting 4.7.
"You've got a guy who's 6-foot-3 plus, over 300 pounds, runs sub-4.9. That stuck out to me," Hayes said. "He's taller (than Atkins). But they're similar in that regard. They're pass rushers — guys that are good against the pass and will have to work the run technique. So in that way, I think they're similar."
The Bengals don't usually take junior college players (Hardison went to Dodge Community College), but Hayes doesn't think his development is going to be hampered. He didn't do much his first year in Tempe with just one sack in 13 games, but he clearly got his feet on the ground last year when he ripped off eight sacks in his last seven games.
"Talking to the people down there, they just wanted him to jump right in and be able to play. Sometimes that guy can do it, sometimes he can't," Hayes said. "Talking to him when he came here (on a visit), we looked at tape together and he knew their whole defense. He was very, very sharp. I could just put the tape on, and he looked at it and was telling me what everyone was doing. So whatever happened in that first year, he learned the defense and was able to do it the next year, because it equated to 10 sacks. So we were pretty happy about that."
Hardison is an intriguing guy for more than his sped. He's a high school quarterback who, it has been said, can throw it 70 yards.
"I can probably throw the thing the whole football field," he said with a laugh on his conference call with the Cincinnati media. "I tried, but they wanted me to stay on the other side of the ball. They also didn't want me to show off in front of the other quarterbacks and hurt their feelings ."
Hardison played a lot of end in Arizona State's scheme, but he knows his ticket is inside in the NFL.
"I feel comfortable at defensive end, because that's where I play, but I can play other spots and still be active on the line," he said. "I would feel comfortable because that's where I think I excel at the next level. I feel like now in the NFL, it's more of a three-tech than anything… Being a former quarterback and skill player, I had to get a little bigger, but I feel I kept my speed."
His fourth-round selection gives Hardison the edge for what figures to be the fourth and final tackle spot among Pat Sims and Devon Still behind Peko, Atkins, and Brandon Thompson. It sounds like they're going to keep him around awhile because they like what may develop.
"He just started playing defensive line his last year of high school, and he played it in JC. This is something that's a little new to him, which is great," Hayes said. "We'll be able to work with him and get him going. I spoke with his position coach down there (at Arizona State), who I've known for a really long time, and he thinks his upside is really big. So we're looking forward to that."