Big plays in special teams can change a game and Georgia has some of the best specialists in the country. Headlined by return man Brandon Boykin, the Bulldogs (1-0) litter the preseason All-SEC lists in the third phase of the game.
Senior returner Brandon Boykin leaves a lot of kickoff teams looking at the back of his jersey. He has four career returns for touchdowns, three of which have gone for 100 yards.
Boykin is one of the most dynamic players at his trade in the country. An above average defensive back, Boykin is revered in college football circles for what he does on special teams.
In two-plus seasons as Georgia’s primary kickoff returner, he has averaged almost 25 yards per return on 72 attempts with four touchdowns to his credit. Just one more jaunt to the end zone and he’ll tie the SEC record.
“I’ve studied a lot of film on him,” South Carolina special teams coordinator John Butler said. “I thought he had more than four kickoff returns for touchdowns. On film, I swear I saw six or seven, so there must have been some that were called back. We have a challenge this week. That’s a huge weapon for them. Anytime he touches the ball, he can take it to the house, no question.”
Boykin is the only player in SEC history to record three plays of 100 yards in a college career, all of which have come on kickoff returns.
South Carolina found out all too well just how dynamic that Boykin, the preseason first-team All-SEC returner, can be on special teams. In the Gamecocks’ last trip to Sanford Stadium, Boykin, as a sophomore, had a career day.
After the Gamecocks took the opening kickoff and drove down the field for a touchdown, Boykin answered immediately. He received a kick from Adam Yates and returned it from end zone to end zone relatively untouched to tie the ball game.
“He’s an excellent athlete,” placekicker Jay Wooten, who was redshirting during the 2009 season, said. “Obviously, they have a lot of good players and athletes on their team. We’re just going to try to – you don’t try to change anything up too much but they have a lot of excellent athletes, so it’s something you have to take into consideration.”
The game was a shootout, which South Carolina lost 41-37. All of the scores gave Boykin plenty of opportunities. Yates kicked off nine times during the game, three of which reached the end zone, but none of them were downed.
Of the three kicks that were fielded in the red paint of the Georgia end zone, Boykin returned all three for an average of 56 yards. He returned one 100 yards, another 48, and the third and final a mere 20 yards.
Three more kicks were fair caught by your typical blockers. Two fielded by alternate return man Branden Smith, who fumbled one away, which led to a South Carolina score. When all was said and done, off kickoffs only, the Bulldogs had an average starting field position of their own 39-yard line.
In the first game of the 2011 season, Boykin returned five kicks for 110 yards. In the process, he passed Scott Woerner’s school record of 1,916 yards in returns, both punt and kickoff. Currently, Boykin has 1,923 in kickoff return yards.
Ideally, Wooten can just launch his kickoffs out of the back of the end zone. He registered three touchbacks on nine kickoffs against East Carolina but Boykin is known for not letting those extra few yards deter him.
So do you kick away from the talented return man? There are different factors but common sense says yes.
“Definitely something we’ll think about,” Wooten said. “My responsibility is just to kick. I’ll try my best to do that and we’ll see how it pans out.”
Butler seemed pleased with the special teams after game one on Saturday night against East Carolina. He did say that he wanted to see more intensity and physicality from the kickoff coverage unit.
He levied a challenge against the group but they’ve already got a mountain of a return man packed into a little 5-foot-10, 183-pound body.
“We have a challenge in our coverage units,” Butler said. “But that’s why you play at this level. We have some pretty good players, too.”
Boykin versus the Gamecocks
- Yates kickoff 70 yards to the GA0, Brandon Boykin return 100 yards to the SC0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 09:37.
- Yates kickoff 70 yards to the GA0, Branden Smith return 5 yards to the GA5, fumble by Branden Smith recovered by SC Tony Straughter at GA8.
- Yates kickoff 70 yards to the GA0, Brandon Boykin return 48 yards to the GA48 (D. Holloman).
- Yates kickoff 38 yards to the GA32, fair catch by Arthur Lynch.
- Yates kickoff 58 yards to the GA12, Branden Smith return 48 yards to the SC40 (Adam Yates)
- Yates kickoff 70 yards to the GA0, Brandon Boykin return 20 yards to the GA20 (Antonio Allen;Cedrick Snead
- Yates kickoff 66 yards to the GA4, Brandon Boykin return 19 yards to the GA23 (Brandan Davis)
- Yates kickoff 46 yards to the GA24, F. Munzenmaier return 9 yards to the GA33 (Darian Stewart)
- Yates kickoff 41 yards to the GA29, fair catch by F. Munzenmaier.
TOTAL: Four returns, 187 yards, TD
- Scribner-Howard kickoff 66 yards to the GA4, Brandon Boykin return 26 yards to the GA30 (Josh Dickerson;Brandan Davis).
- Scribner-Howard kickoff 68 yards to the GA2, out-of-bounds, GA ball on GA40.
- Scribner-Howard kickoff 51 yards to the GA19, Cameron Allen return 9 yards to the GA28 (Brandan Davis).
- Jay Wooten kickoff 47 yards to the GA23, Brandon Boykin return 14 yards to the GA37 (Chaun Gresham).
TOTAL: Two returns, 40 yards