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Friday, December 11, 2009

Dawgs of the Decade: The Returners

Through a decade of success, there have been plenty of players who have made their mark in a Georgia uniform, and for the next two weeks, The Telegraph will be giving you the chance to vote on your picks for the Bulldogs’ All-Decade team for the 2000s. We’ll go position-by-position, and you’ll pick the winners by going to www.macon.com/decade to vote.

Our third ballot is for Georgia’s top return men of the decade, and the nominees are:

(Note: Years as Georgia’s primary returner in parentheses)

Damien Gary (2000-2003). As a four-year contributor in the return game, Gary holds the school record for punt return yards in a career with 1,253 – nearly 200 more than the next player on the list. Gary averaged more than 12 yards per return in 2001 and 2002, including a 13.5 average on the ’02 SEC championship team – the seventh-best mark in team history for a player with at least 15 returns. He had two punt-return touchdowns in his career.

Fred Gibson (2001-2002). Gibson’s name will likely be a top vote-getter on the ballot for best wide receivers of the decade, but he was no slouch in the kick return game either. As Georgia’s primary returner in 2001 and 2002, Gibson racked up 835 yards on 33 returns. His average of 26.8 yards per return in 2001 is the highest by any Georgia returner since 1990. His 91-yard kick return for a touchdown against Clemson in 2002 was crucial in a 31-28 win that sparked Georgia’s run to a conference title.

Mikey Henderson (2006-2007). While Henderson will likely be best remembered for his game-winning touchdown catch against Alabama, it was his punt return skills that endeared him to fans. One of the most explosive return men in recent history for Georgia, Henderson was a threat to take it to the house each time he touched the ball. Named as the first-team All-SEC punt returner in 2006, he had two touchdowns that season, including an 86-yarder against Tennessee. His 14.7 yards per return average in 2006 ranks third all-time for the Bulldogs.

Thomas Flowers (2004-2005). Perhaps not the biggest name to work the return game at Georgia, Flowers still made his mark in many ways. He was the primary punt returner as a freshman and sophomore, and his 15.1 yards per return average in 2004 is the second highest in Georgia history for anyone with at least 15 returns and led the SEC that year. In 2005, he helped Georgia to an SEC title and his 54-yard punt return for a TD against Tennessee was one of the highlights of the season. While he sat out most of his junior year with an injury and his role on special teams diminished as a senior, his seven punt returns in those two seasons still accounted for 141 yards. He finished his career seventh in Georgia history with 55 punt returns and fifth in the record book with 821 yards.

Asher Allen (2006-2007). A star at cornerback, Allen was also one of Georgia’s most dynamic return men – working both punt and kick returns throughout his career. As a sophomore in 2007, he set the school record (which was broken this year by Brandon Boykin) with 28 kick returns for 690 yards, including an 82-yarder against Kentucky, helping Georgia to a No. 2 ranking at year’s end. His 24.6 yards per return average was the second highest by a Georgia kick returner since 1991.

Brandon Boykin (2009-present). Boykin’s work in the return game encompasses just one year so far, but it was an impressive one. He set the school record for kick returns in a season with 36 returns and 881 return yards – an average of more than 73 yards per game. Boykin had five games with at least 100 return yards and tied an SEC record with two 100-yard kick returns for touchdowns, including a crucial game-changing score against South Carolina.

(*Note: Yes, I left Prince Miller and Tyson Browning off the ballot, but I had to make some cuts somewhere. Miller returned just nine punts in 2008 and was largely ineffective in 2009 outside of a couple of solid games. Browning was a three-year starter, but had just nine returns in 2003 and was only used as a kick returner in five games in 2005. Feel free to make the case for either in the comments, however.)

So, who gets your vote? Go to www.macon.com/decade to cast your ballot or vote in our previous categories, and be sure to pick up a copy of the December 27th issue of The Telegraph to find out the winners.


And don't forget to leave your comments here on the blog. Tell us about why you made your selection and your favorite memories of those players, and your comments could appear in our final results issue of The Telegraph.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What? How can this be? No Logan Gray??!?!? Think of the injury potential from waving your arm back and forth so many times!

Anonymous said...

Boykin and Smith will be the best when all is said and done. This team is loaded with talent. All they need is a QB who doesn't give the game away, an average defense (couple notches above where they are now), and to kick the ball out of the end zone and they will be there. Go Dawgs!

Ginny said...

Brandon Boykin is baller but I have to give the nod to Mikey Henderson for right now. I remember every time the opposing team kicked off or punted and he was back there, the entire stadium would chant "Mikey! Mikey!" You knew he was going to make a play every time he touched the ball. Not to mention he was a pretty amazing receiver. He and Brannen Southerland are two guys who I think we missed terribly.

brianchoate42 said...

I agree that Boykin had a great year, but he had so many returns because we had so many kickoffs, because opposing teams scored way too many points

Anonymous said...

Damien Gary was the most consistent of the bunch. Sure hands and a good decision maker. Remember the onside kick he scooped up and returned for a TD. That was classic.

HattiesburgJay said...

I would like to give another write-in vote for Logan Gray.

B Man said...

Damien Gary gets my vote. As a classic Munson disciple who was raised to see the negative in everything, Damien Gary gave me comfort. I never really held my breath when he was back there. Great hands, great decisions, and a few good moves on top of that.

Anonymous said...

Henderson should win this. Although I think Boykin may end up the best if he stays healthy and if we can afford to keep him back there(hes a heck of a cb great tackling skills). But on an overall body of work MIKEY was the man. He's one of the few guys weve had that I've got exited about returning the ball in a long time.