In the wake of Richard Samuel’s season-ending injury and one-game suspensions of Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome, Georgia is left pretty thin at the tailback position.
But don’t fret Georgia faithful, help is on the way in the form of redshirt sophomore Brandon Harton. Though not yet officially named the starter for Saturday, it’s a pretty good bet that Harton will be behind Aaron Murray for the first snap against New Mexico State.
This is hardly the first time this season that Georgia has had to rely on a little known backup to fill in for missing starters. Early in the year, key defensive starters Alec Ogletree and Christian Robison were both sidelined with foot injuries.
Junior Michael Gilliard and freshman Amarlo Herrera stepped up nicely in the injured linebackers’ absences, and both are still consistently producing for the Bulldogs defense even after Ogletree and Robinson have now returned.
Now it’s Harton’s turn to step in for a game, see some significant playing time and prove that he will still be competing for a spot on the field after Crowell, Thomas and Malcome return to the team next week.
A three-sport star in high school, Harton played football, basketball and also ran track where he won a AA state championship in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles as a junior. Harton is also former-Bulldog Washaun Ealey’s cousin, but don’t hold that against him bitter Dawg fans; you can’t choose your family.
Should he get the start, it will complete a long journey at Georgia for Harton. Harton had been recruited out of high school by Georgia Southern and Charleston Southern, but instead chose to try to walk on at Georgia.
Harton made the team as a wide receiver and later spent the 2010 season on the Georgia scout team. Harton impressed Mark Richt during camp last spring. ESPN’s David Ching reported Richt had high praise of Harton during a SEC teleconference Wednesday afternoon.
“Harton did a nice job last spring. In fact, before the spring game, he was kind of the story of the spring. He was a guy that walked on for us to play receiver as a freshman and then going into this spring, he asked if he could move to tailback and we were like, ‘Yeah, why not,’ and didn’t think much of it. Then by the time we got through with a couple scrimmages, he had made some plays for us, so we were very encouraged by him. Matter of fact, I awarded him a scholarship right before the season began. I felt like he could really help us, so he’s going to get the opportunity to do that along with Kyle [Karempelis].”
Harton did come out of spring camp third on the depth chart at running back behind Crowell and Samuel, but an ankle injury kept him sidelined for the first game and he fell behind Thomas and Malcome.
Harton has seen limited action this season, all coming against Coastal Carolina where he carried the ball 11 times for 33 yards.
Against New Mexico State, expect Harton to get plenty more touches and really have an opportunity to showcase himself in the backfield. The Aggies’ run defense has been atrocious so far this season, ranked 111th in the nation in against the rush, surrendering 214.38 yards per game according to CFBStats.com.
Couple those statistics with the fact that New Mexico State is yet to face an offensive line anything like Georgia’s, the biggest in football, and that should add up to a big day on the ground for Harton and the Bulldogs.