September 13, 2009

Smith shows he has speed to burn

It's been a number of seasons since Georgia has had a player with the type of electrifying speed that freshman Branden Smith brings to the field.

Bulldog fans certainly got to see for themselves during Saturday's 41-37 win over South Carolina.

Trailing 17-14, Smith lined up at wide receiver but when quarterback Joe Cox called the play, slid back across the field to take what looked like a routine reverse handoff.

But this was hardly routine.

As Smith took the pitch, he suddenly cut back up-field and saw a crease begin to form.

That's all it took. After picking up a key block from wide receiver Mike Moore, Smith zoomed through Gamecock defenders until it was only a safety standing between the former Washington High star and the end zone.

Not for long. At about the 35 yard line, Smith found an even faster gear and sped into the end zone for Georgia's third touchdown of the game.

"I just tried to step my game up to another level, step my speed up to another level," Smith said. "When I turned the only thing I saw was green. I was getting to the end zone."

Head coach Mark Richt certainly liked what he saw.

"I knew that little joker's fast," Richt said. "That was one of the biggest recruiting battle celebrations we had when he said he was coming because I knew that I knew that we were going to have to get him involved in some special teams and offensive plays. I think his role will grow as time goes on."

Richt added that he and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had earlier discussed trying the play, which they hoped would take advantage of the Gamecocks' heavy pursuit.

They were certainly correct.

"We had a good feeling that as we planned it that it would have a chance. They really pursue hard. Their defense really plays extremely hard and so we thought there would be some chance to get some sort of misdirection, or reverse and I then when they lined up it looked like we had a look that was favorable for the play," Richt said. "Now somebody said it was a heck of a catch on the flip, I don't know, but supposedly he made a nice little grab just to get it. But it was certainly nice to see the thing work the way it was supposed to and then just see him finish it."

Cox, who made a block of his own during the play, said having someone with the big-play threat of Smith, is something the offense will need to try and implement the rest of the year.

"The funny thing was me trying to block their defensive end. I don't know if it was (Clifton) Geathers or what. I just knew I didn't want my guy to make the tackle," Cox said. "But as soon as I got back up and he hit the hole, I knew he was gone. Branden's probably the fastest guy on the team with that kind of speed. He's got a lot offensive skills that people didn't know about. He catches the ball well, is a very instinctual runner. "

Smith was just happy to get back in the good graces of his teammates and coaches.

For the second time in as many weeks, Smith tried to return a kick from deep in his own end zone. That decision failed against Oklahoma State and Saturday against South Carolina proved disastrous when Smith fumbled away the ball at 8 in the first quarter, setting up a short field goal by Spencer Lanning.

"That just made me sick," Smith said. "I know better than that, but I just was just trying to make a play. I'm glad I was able to eventually do that."

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