JQ Hardaway was a top-15 defensive back coming out of high school. The 6'3", 200 pound cornerback fits a more traditional approach to the Mark Stoops cornerback prototype. After taking a trip to Lexington in December, Hardaway decided it was time to pick the 'Cats.
A lot led up to JQ Hardaway's departure from Cincinnati. Hardaway's former head coach, Luke Fickell, made the jump to Wisconsin and Kentucky cornerback Carrington Valentine made a somewhat shocking announcement by forgoing his college eligibility and entering the NFL Draft. With Vito Tisdale gaining experience from both the nickel and corner positions in the spring of 2022, the Bowling Green native will look to return in 2023. One would think this plays well with the Hardaway commitment. With a long and physical frame, Hardaway could become the next-in-waiting corner to reach the NFL. Hardaway possesses the ability to force receivers outside and to force them out. He is also a solid tackler.
With the wingspan Hardaway has and the history that Mark Stoops has with his build, Hardaway and Kentucky seem to be the perfect fit. Hardaway played a total of 93 snaps at Cincinnati, totaling 8 total tackles and a sack. Hardaway was named to ESPN's Preseason Freshman All-America Team in the August of 2022, as he was brought in to replace arguably the greatest defensive back in 2021, Sauce Gardner, to whom many in the Bearcats world compared Hardaway.
The lanky defender has all of the tools to be great at Kentucky. With three years of eligibility and a year of experience at the collegiate level, Hardaway has maybe the highest upside of the entire Kentucky transfer list. I fully expect the sophomore stud to enroll early at Kentucky and compete for the starting job. With both Keidron Smith and Carrington Valentine leaving question marks at the cornerback position, I grade the landing of this transfer an A+++.