ATHENS -- Brandon Boykin’s preparation in the 24 hours before a game has to be rigorous.
The Georgia senior rattled off all he does, saying, “Take the little Powerade electrolytes, put it in everything I eat. Salt all my foods. Nutritionist has me eating a lot of fruit and things. I drink Pedialyte lots of times.”
That would be the same Pedialyte normally used to hydrate babies.
“I hate to say it, but it helps,” Boykin said.
Football players all have to prepare for games, but Boykin is on another level. He plays basically every snap on defense, returns kickoffs and got between six to eight snaps (he doesn’t remember how many) on offense Saturday against South Carolina.
And the more Boykin succeeds, the more his coaches plan to play him.
“I think we waited too long to use him on offense,” head coach Mark Richt said this week. “He really is a dynamic player offensively.”
Boykin ranks sixth nationally in all-purpose yards -- 94 yards rushing and 294 on returns. And based on the first two games, it’s hard to argue he’s not the Bulldogs’ best weapon. His 80-yard touchdown run was a lone highlight in the season-opening loss to Boise State, and against South Carolina, he broke off a 58-yard kick return that was one tackle from being a touchdown.
It has been a long time coming. While Boykin has been returning kicks since he was a sophomore and already holds the program’s record for career kick return yardage, he didn’t start playing offense until this year.
Boykin recalled pleading with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo during his sophomore year to use him on offense.
“I kinda used to ask him back in the day, ‘Put me in on offense. Your best offensive players are the defensive guys, me and B-Smith,’ ” Boykin said, referring to fellow cornerback Branden Smith. “But Coach Bobo, he just said whatever to it. I always did wonder about it, but there’s nothing I can do (about it) now.”
Bobo is now a convert.
“You see when he gets the ball in space on any type of kickoff return, he’s a threat to go the distance. And then the same thing offensively,” Bobo said.
Despite not breaking a long run against South Carolina, Boykin had an impact merely by being on the field. Gamecocks defenders were, according to Boykin, yelling out “No. 2’s in the game!” He acted as a good decoy on several plays and made the most of his two runs.
“One run was a 5- or 6-yard run, but we didn’t block the edge well, and he made a guy miss and got 6 yards, which put us in a favorable third down -- which we ended up not converting, but which was a third-and-medium because of his ability in space,” Bobo said. “It’s trying to get guys in space that can make plays.”
Perhaps not just space. Richt said this week that eventually he’d like to see what Boykin can do running up the middle.
That was news to Boykin, who was asked if he was looking forward to running between the tackles.
“No!” he answered, smiling. “Really? Run through the tackles? I gotta get my mind right for that. But honestly, whatever they want me to do, I’m gonna get the ball in my hands, I’m gonna try to make something happen.”
Boykin was a two-way star in high school at Fayette County, so it’s not new to him. In fact, he was a quarterback in an option offense, rushing for 600 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, in addition to passing for 416 yards and as a cornerback, hauling in five interceptions.
The Georgia coaches have been hesitant to use him too much on special teams and offense, partly because he’s their top cornerback. But the Bulldogs have also had dynamic offensive players like A.J. Green, Knowshon Moreno and Mohamed Massaqoui.
But now, other than a couple of inexperienced freshmen (Isaiah Crowell and Malcolm Mitchell), Boykin may be the team’s best available weapon on offense. And all signs point to the team continuing to use him as such.
“If he was purely an offensive player, I think he’d be pretty darn good,” Richt said. “And really I don’t know if he’d be a tailback or a receiver because he’s got enough skills to do both.”