November 8, 2011

Harton proves his worth

During his post-game press conference, Georgia coach Mark Richt made those in the room chuckle when he said running back Brandon Harton might have been a little scared to return to the sideline after his fumble on the Bulldogs' opening drive during last week's win over New Mexico State.

Harton laughed that he didn't think it was so funny at the time.

"When I fumbled all I could think about was getting the ball back and when I didn't, I was like I don't want to go back over there," Harton said after practice. "I didn't know if I was going to get fussed at or what was going to happen. But I got back, Coach talked to me, told me to secure the ball and then Coach Richt walked up, told me he still loved me, just have better ball security and have fun. But I tell you what, it's a scary sight when your first carry was a fumble. You never want that to happen."

Harton didn't, and Richt's confidence in the redshirt sophomore was proven correct after Harton rebounded from the slow start to rush for a team-high 98 yards and score his first career touchdown in Georgia's 63-16 win over the Aggies.

With Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas back for this week's game against 24th-ranked Auburn (6-3, 4-2), Harton knows his time on the field is about to be dramatically reduced.

Still, he hopes his showing against New Mexico State opened some eyes.

"I think maybe, but that's the coaches' decision," Harton said. "If they feel like I did, they'll give me some carries. If not, I'll just keep working hard and my day will come."

Richt announced on Tuesday that Crowell would indeed start Saturday's 3:30 game on CBS, but with Richard Samuel (ankle) out, Harton would have a chance to push for a carry or two.

"I would think he would be no worse than No.3," Richt said. "We'll just play it out this week, practice hard and then see where we stand. Both Branden Smith and Brandon Smith are also good and I'm sure we will have ways to get them the ball, too."

Harton, laughed that his dealing with his new-found fame was something that took some getting used to do.

Following last Tuesday's practice after the suspensions of Crowell, Thomas and Ken Malcome were announced, Harton returned to the locker room to see that his cell phone was lit up like a Fourth of July fireworks show.

"As soon as I got out of practice I looked at my phone and had tons of text messages, missed calls and the only people I really responded to were a couple of my high school friends who I've known forever," Harton said. "I just tried not to play into the media, what everybody was saying and just do what I could to keep my mind focused."

To help him do that, Georgia decided to hold him out of any mid-week interviews, something the former Tattnall County standout said probably helped him keep his wits.

"I think it really helped a lot because it gave me more time to focus and not worry about what other people were saying," Harton said. "I was just worried about going out there and doing what I was supposed to do. I feel like not having a chance to talk really helped me out."

He doesn't mind talking now, particularly after a game which he said helped prove that he belongs on the big-time stage.

"I think I proved to myself that I'm very capable of playing at this level, that hard work paid off," Harton said. "I've been working hard to this point, but no matter what happens from this point out, I'm going to keep working hard. That's nothing new."

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