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McCallie's Jay Hardy, center, celebrates a turnover during the Blue Tornado's TSSAA Division II-AAA playoff game against Ensworth on Nov. 9, 2018 in Chattanooga.

Since the NCAA's dead period ended Jan. 10 and college football coaches have once again been allowed to visit high school recruits, one of the main destinations for the nation's top programs has been McCallie.

The Blue Tornado routinely produce multiple college football signees and will do so again in early February, but the target of so much attention now is a member of the 2020 signing class — defensive lineman Jay Hardy. Since posting video highlights of his 2018 junior season to the online site Hudl, where coaches can evaluate players, Hardy's recruitment has taken off.

"It's been a revolving door of coaches from more than a dozen schools coming by here, pretty much on a daily basis," McCallie coach Ralph Potter said. "The first thing they say is how impressive Jay's film is. He improved tremendously as the season went along and really matured in how he practiced.

"For those big-name programs, it's all about the measurables, and you don't find many kids his size who can run and move like he can. Jay is pretty versatile and could wind up playing 3-technique (tackle) or end."

some text McCallie defensive lineman Jay Hardy gets a hand on Montgomery Bell Academy's Brenden Harris during their Aug. 31 game in Chattanooga.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Hardy updated his highlights Dec. 10 and two days later was given a four-star ranking by Rivals.com. The most impressive footage came from McCallie's Nov. 16 matchup at Memphis University School in the Division II-AAA state semifinals, when Hardy proved he could win one-on-one battles against one of the nation's highest-rated offensive line prospects, four-star offensive tackle Marcus Henderson (6-4, 310).

Since then Hardy's list of scholarship offers has grown to more than 20 and includes Tennessee and Georgia, 2018 College Football Playoff semifinalists Notre Dame and Oklahoma, plus Duke, Kentucky, LSU, Northwestern, South Carolina, Stanford, TCU, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Florida Atlantic University coach Lane Kiffin, the former Tennessee coach, has also offered Hardy a scholarship, and Penn State coaches are expected on McCallie's campus within the next few days.

Current Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was at McCallie earlier this week.

"From everything I had heard during the season, a lot of coaches wanted to wait and evaluate me, to see how I did on the field before they offered anything," said Hardy, whose brother Kevin Cooper played fullback at Baylor School and later at Tennessee. "I felt like I was having a good game against MUS, and I think that's the one that really got people's attention. It's been crazy ever since December, but really since the dead period ended with all the coaches coming by the school.

"I'll get text messages starting from early in the morning, throughout the day and into the night from coaches. I got a text from Oklahoma the other day before I had even made it to school, and I've picked up more than 500 Twitter followers just over the last few days. It's changed my focus a lot, just over the last few weeks, because now I kind of know what could be out there for me."

Hardy plans to attend junior day at Tennessee this weekend, but he said he isn't in any hurry to begin narrowing his list of schools or make a commitment.

"The biggest thing is I just want to see who I develop a relationship with and where feels like home," said Hardy, who added he plans to major in engineering. "It's been great having my brother there to talk to since he's been through the recruiting process and can give me good advice.

"I didn't think making a decision on where I would go to college and play would be this tough, but I can already tell it won't be easy."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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