When he arrives at Oklahoma State next month, Chris Hardeman has one goal: He wants to play in the season opener. The opportunity to see the field against defending national champion Florida State is extra motivation for the already-hungry four-star cornerback from Houston Alief Taylor.
A thick, physical corner at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, Hardeman is confident he has what it takes to make it as a freshman defender in the Big 12. Now he just has to prove it.
Our summer series of weekly Q&As with the Big 12's best incoming freshmen continues today with Hardeman, who'd been committed to LSU for more than a year before eventually choosing OSU.
Now that the recruiting is all over, do you ever think about what would've happened had you gone to LSU?
Hardeman: Oh, I think about it. At the same time, I'm glad I chose Oklahoma State because it's a great program where I can see myself. It's an opportunity for early playing time for me playing in the Big 12, where they throw a lot and I can make a lot of plays.
Did it bug you when you saw your friends and fellow DBs Jamal Adams and Ed Paris go on to sign with LSU? You helped recruit those guys.
Hardeman: Yeah, it kind of bugged me a lot. But I knew Ed was going to be there and I knew Jamal was real strong on them. Me and [Alabama signee] Tony Brown have a good relationship, so I knew if Tony would've went it would've been more difficult. But I kind of knew where Tony's head was, too.
You visited Oklahoma and OSU on the same weekend that you made your decision. How did those two compare in your eyes?
Hardeman: Oklahoma is a great university and great place, but I just couldn't see myself playing there. When I went to Oklahoma State there was just a difference, to me, with the players and the coaching staff. I felt more family and more at home when I went to Oklahoma State.
To be going to Oklahoma State with your teammate Keenen Brown, will that keep both of you focused?
Hardeman: Yeah, it'll keep both of us motivated. Me and Keenen are going to push each other every day. We're going to be roommates. We're going to go up there and grind for the next three or four years to try to make our dreams a reality and make it to the next level.
What kind of opportunity do you have to play in 2014?
Hardeman: I have a great opportunity. Coach [Van] Malone has told me that I have a great opportunity to come in there and play right away. It's just going to be up to me. He's going to put me in the fire once I get there, and I'm either going to swim or I'm going to sink. If I swim, I'll be playing. If not, I'll redshirt. He basically told me it's up to me. I'll go compete like I've always done and try to get on the field that first game against Florida State.
The Cowboys lose one of the best DBs they've ever had in Justin Gilbert. Do you see that as motivation?
Hardeman: Justin was a big part of me deciding to go to Oklahoma State. He's a real cool guy. I went down there for spring practice and he was down there after the [NFL] combine. He remembered me from when I went out there in August to commit and he was just real cool, even though he's a big-time dude. He was normal and humble. I really like that about him.
I know Coach Malone helped get him to this high stature, and I feel like I can do the same thing. They basically do the same stuff we run at Taylor, that man press coverage. I feel like that's a big asset of my game, getting in people's faces and knocking them off their routes. It fits right into what I do, so I'll come in and adapt really well.
Do you like that pressure, that sink-or-swim reality of playing against Big 12 receivers?
Hardeman: That's the main reason why I decided to go to Oklahoma State. I'm always thinking of my future. I know the first thing NFL scouts want to see is, can he cover and can he make plays on the ball? If I'd gone to LSU, I would've had to do some tremendous things like my idol, Tyrann Mathieu, in order to even get considered for the next level. At Oklahoma State, I can prove to them and prove to myself that I can cover big-time Baylor and Oklahoma and Texas Tech receivers and make plays.
I'm sure you've fantasized about it, but what would it mean to play against Jameis Winston and Florida State at AT&T Stadium in your first career game?
Hardeman: That would be crazy. That's one of my goals as a true freshman. That's a great way to get your name out there and get publicized. If I go out there in the first game as a freshman to play Jameis Winston -- my dream is to catch an interception -- and help my team win, that would bring a lot of exposure.
If you guys beat Florida State, there's no telling where the year goes from there, right?
Hardeman: If we beat Florida State, we should shoot up in the rankings and we might even be in the national championship talk. That game is going to be real fun. I can't wait.