JENKS — Dylan Harding lacked aggression on the football field growing up, often finding himself on the offensive side of the ball.
That is until his eighth-grade season at Jenks.
Harding's mindset quickly changed during the first day of practice while running the Oklahoma Drill, a drill pitting two players against each other head-to-head. It was a win-or-lose situation.
“It's a mindset change for me and I picked it up pretty quick for the most part,” he said.
Harding has developed into one of the state's top safeties, garnering 12 offers from across the country to enter the season as No. 15 on The Oklahoman's Super 30 recruit rankings for 2014.
“He brings high energy; he's going all out every play,” Jenks defensive coordinator Keith Riggs said. “The intensity level he has, it raises the kids around him intensity level as well.”
Last season, Harding recorded 57 tackles and led the Trojans with five interceptions en route to a Class 6A state championship in his second year as a starter.
Riggs said Harding is an excellent tackler, but it's his size that has helped earned him the dozen offers.
Harding said he has narrowed his choices down to four — Arizona State, Oregon State, Texas Tech and Tulsa.
He's also recently visited Oklahoma State, but no offer has been made.
There is talk that Harding could slide into a linebacker slot in college with his 6-foot-2 frame. Oregon State and Arizona State originally approached him looking for a linebacker, but left saying he could play safety or linebacker depending on his weight.
Oklahoma State worked him out at its star position, a hybrid linebacker and safety. Harding, though, said he ran 4.35- and 4.4-second 40-yard dashes in Stillwater, and that kind of speed could keep him at safety.
But his immediate goal for the summer is to reach 195 pounds. On Monday, he was at 186 after the Trojans' morning workout.
“All the schools I've talked to, they look at me on the lighter side,” Harding said. “If I can get to 195, I'll be one happy kid.”
He's never left the safety position since he moved there his eighth-grade season.
In fact, he has tried moving back to offense at times alongside other members of the secondary during spring practices, only to promptly return to where he can be most aggressive.
“They'll try to get me in receiver and it ends up with us going straight defense,” Harding said. “We're defensive backs and whatever we can do to help our team.”
The Oklahoman's Super 30: No. 15
Name: Dylan Harding
Recruited by: Has 12 offers, including Arizona State, Oregon State, Texas Tech and Tulsa.