When the Georgia Bulldogs began the 2006 season, questions abounded in the secondary. Fresh off the loss of All-American Greg Blue, the Dawgs were relying on an undersized senior who many blamed for the worst blown coverage assignment of the 2005 campaign, and a host of lesser known and less experienced players, including a few freshmen.
What a difference a year makes. The secondary may be the unit in which fans have the most confidence. They're a year older, a year wiser, and just as physically gifted as before. In addition, a couple of freshmen who impressed while redshirting in 2006 have continued to impress into 2007. Our secondary is stacked. And that's brings me to this recruiting update.
Having this many talented players in one unit is a double-edged sword. It's great for the present and near term because those guys will compete against each other and make each other better. We will have veteran secondaries for the next three years. However, it's hard to recruit the next generation of DB's when they know coming in that they may not see the field until 2009.
As a result, I think you can look for the Dawgs to go after two kinds of players this year at safety and corner: elite guys who will compete against anybody, and guys with a lot of potential who would not be ready to play in 2007 and know it, but have what the Mel Kipers of the world call "upside".
Brandon Boykin is an upside kind of guy. You can watch a series of videos of him here from Rivals. You'll notice that most of the video is of Boykin playing quarterback. From that position he rushed for 987 yards as a junior for the Fayette County Tigers. Boykin is the cousin of fellow Bulldog verbal commitment Martin Ward, previously spotlighted on this site.
He also had 235 yards receiving. But our coaches are primarily recruiting Boykin to play cornerback, a position from which he had 61 tackles as a junior. It's worth noting that very few corners record that many tackles in a season. When you see a number like that, it means either a) the defense's front seven aren't very good and the guy had to run a lot of tailbacks down from behind to save touchdowns, or b) the guy is not afraid to stick his nose in and play run defense.
The video I've seen makes me think that Brandon Boykin falls in the latter category, and that makes me happy. There are few things I dislike more in football that corners who can't play run defense. That's the reason I still refuse to acknowledge the possibility that Deion Sanders might be a Hall of Famer one day. I just remember him as a Hall of Fame pansy every time Ricky Watters or Terrell Davis ever came into view. He was awfully lucky Emmett Smith was on his own team. But as always, I digress.
Boykin is clearly willing to hit somebody. His tackling skills appear to be just OK, but that's not unusual for high school corners. Coach Martinez can handle that, and he'll have a year or more to do it. Boykin is listed by the Rivals folks at 5'11, 171 pounds, so he'll need to bulk up to play the run in the SEC (paging Tra Battle . . .).
I think the most telling highlights on this page are Boykin's offensive clips. One thing that's clear is that he is almost always the fastest guy on the field. There are a couple of plays where he splits and outruns defenders that showcase a burst which is just unbelievable. This will translate well at corner, where I think Boykin will probably exhibit excellent recovery skills (i.e., the ability to catch up to receivers even after they lose him coming off the line of scrimmage). I'm also intrigued by the EA Sports juke moves he has, because I think those will translate well to man coverage as well. It's really hard to teach that kind of agility, and Boykin won't need to be taught it.
You can't teach this either. Did I mention that Brandon Boykin is also competing in the long jump at the state track meet this month? (Photo courtesy of The Citizen of Fayette County)
The only real downside on Boykin might be his coverage skills, which we don't get to see in this video. But again, we're offering him based largely on athletic ability. He will have at least a year(and probably two) to learn the technique before he sees significant snaps. He was also the MVP of the defensive backs at the Athens Nike camp last month, which is a good sign. Oh, and he compares his style on the field to Pac-Man Jones. I'm hoping his off-field style is slightly different.