August 25, 2011

Harton ready to help out

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When head coach Mark Richt asked Brandon Harton to stand up with seven other teammates during a recent team meeting, the redshirt sophomore feared the worse.

In his mind, the Reidsville native kept wondering, what did he do wrong? Did Richt think he sloughed off in practice? Was there something else?

Turns there was - in the form of a scholarship for the upcoming school year.

"At first when he was calling out names and he called mine, the first thing I thought of was what did I do? Did I do something wrong?" Harton said. "Then as soon as he said it (about the scholarship) my mouth literally dropped because I was so surprised. It was totally unexcited. I'm grateful that I have it now, but it was just unexpected at the time."

This wasn't a charity case.

In the spring, Harton was arguably the spring's biggest offensive surprise for the Bulldogs, after coaches decided to move him to offense from defense where he spent the previous year playing cornerback on the scout team.

But injuries create opportunities, and with some of Georgia's bigger names at the time on the sideline, the 5-foot-6, 174-pound former honor graduate of Tattnall County High got his chance, eventually earning the team's Outstanding Walk-On award for spring drills.

With a week to go before next week's opener against Boise State, Harton continues to shine.

Wednesday, Richt announced that Harton remains No. 3 on the depth chart behind Richard Samuel and Isaiah Crowell.

Harton admits his rise up the depth chart has been surprise.

"Just moving over to running back I wasn't expecting to get a lot of opportunities. I just really wanted to learn what to do, go out and have fun. But as spring went on, guys got hurt and every day 'Ok, you're getting more and more reps, you've got to learn what to do,'" he said. "It was kind of mind-boggling to run through all those plays so fast in that short amount of time. I still don't know them all, but it became easier to learn because after spring you've got all summer and we're still learning to this day."

But his confidence is growing.

Playing for the "Georgia" squad during Wednesday's scrimmage against the scout team (Boise State), Harton rushed five times for 26 yards and a touchdown. The former track star also had a reception which he turned into a 49-yard gain.

"My confidence has grown a lot," he said. "I can tell as far as going through progressions on the field, as far as blocking assignments, recognizing defenses, I've gotten better at that and I'm not as worried about messing up just because I know what I'm supposed to do. It's the small things - technique - that I have to work on every day, so I won't get caught out of position."

For those who don't know, speed is Harton's game.

A first-team All-Region running back and Tattnall County's Special Teams Player of the Year as a senior, Harton won the Class AA state championship in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles as a junior and finished third in the triple jump and fourth in the 100 meters.

He wound up fourth, fifth and seventh in the respective events his senior campaign.

It's that speed which helped to open the eyes of Georgia coaches, and has them seriously considering ways to utilize Harton to take advantage of the talent he brings.

Harton said he's ready to help out any way he can.

"Right now I'm backing up other guys but if coaches need me to go play scout team, I'm more than happy to do it," he said. "But at the same time I'm happy to be with the No. 1 and No. 2 offense learning what to do."

Should he actually get a chance next week against the Broncos, Harton said he'll be ready.

Yes, he's allowing himself to dream.

"I've thought about it. Just knowing that it's the first game in the Dome against Boise and knowing their might be a possibility I can play is exciting. It's all I can think about," he said. "There's no other feeling except excitement. If that chance comes up I'll do my best and hope its good enough."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]