September 15, 2011

Better late than never



Senior Brandon Boykin couldn't help but smile.

A few minutes earlier, head coach Mark Richt conceded he probably waited too long to give the speedy cornerback an opportunity to play on the offensive side.

"Good, I've been telling him that," Boykin said with a laugh. "A lot of stuff could have happened, who knows?

Don't get him wrong.

By no means is he angry that he's just now getting his chance. But yes, he does concede he has wondered 'what if.'

"I do. I'm not going to sit here and lie. I kind of used to ask him (Richt) back in the day, 'put me on offense, the best offensive players are the defensive guys, me and Branden Smith,'" said Boykin. "I asked him my sophomore year when I started returning kicks. They did let me run the ball, in the spring game they gave me some carries, but nothing since."

Boykin doesn't figure to have that problem moving forward.

According to Richt, the plan is for the former Fayette County standout to become more and more involved in the offense as the season moves along.

His 80-yard run against Boise State certainly showed what he's capable of doing, and Richt acknowledges the Bulldogs' need to make better use of Boykin's obvious skills, perhaps even in ways few dreamed they would.

"He really is a dynamic player offensively. I think before the season is over I can see him run the ball between the tackles a little bit, although right now we're just using speed stuff, outside plays and things of that nature. But I think he's capable of running between the tackles," Richt said. "I don't know if it's wise to do that with his role on the special teams and his role on defense. I think the weather cooling down will help everyone in time, but getting a guy like Branden Smith back will help him, too."

Boykin's ears perked up when told what Richt potentially had in mind.

"Run through the tackles? I've got to get my mind right for that," he said "But no, honestly, whatever they want me to do, I'm going to get the ball in my hands and try to make something happen and try to be myself as playmaker whenever I'm on the field, not just with the ball in my hands."

So far, the statistics don't lie.

Boykin's two-game average of 194 all-purpose yards is tops in the SEC and ranks sixth nationally, not bad considering he's playing virtually every snap on defense, including all but four in last week's loss to South Carolina.

"He's helping us a lot. It's taken a toll on him a little bit, he's sore and tired, but a lot of guys are sore and tired right now after two games, plus a Tuesday, Wednesday practice," Richt said. "I've been saying it every week, I wish we had like two or three of him, we're still kind of waiting on (Smith) to really feel healthy enough to use him some more offensively, too. He's still hobbling a little bit. He's not 100 percent with that foot."

Playing so many reps (85 average) have caused Bulldog trainers to take precautions to make sure Boykin is able to stay on the field.

That's included bags of IVs at halftime of both the games against Boise State and South Carolina. But that's not all.

"I'll take the little PowerAde electrolytes and put it in everything that I eat, I salt all my foods, and the nutritionist is having me eat a lot of fruits and things," Boykin said. "I drink Pedialyte all the time. Bad as I hate to say it, it helps and on game day they've got a special bottle of stuff they keep on the sideline. They make sure I'm hydrated all the times."

But of course, it's Boykin's ability as one of the country's premiere kick returners that opponents currently have to watch out for the most.

Again, his numbers tell the story.

Last year, Boykin took over Georgia's No. 1 mark in career return yardage and last week against South Carolina returned a seven school record seven kicks for 184 yards, the third most in school history.

It would have been even more had Gamecock kicker Jay Wooten not gotten in just enough of the way to prevent a 58-yard effort from becoming Boykin's fifth touchdown return.

"My dad recorded it at my house and I watched it on Sunday. I watched it like 15 times and just smacked myself in the head," said Boykin, whose four kickoff returns for touchdowns are tied with Willie Gault and Felix Jones for the top mark in SEC history. "If I had just stayed to the right, I would have missed the kicker and I would have scored. I'm definitely going to try and do that this week."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.