Little Big Man Tyson Browning

ATHENS - Fresh off a Monday evening meal, two cookies in hand, Georgia's Tyson Browning wanted everyone to know how much he really weighs.

"One hundred, sixty-nine and a half pounds," the Bulldog running back said.

And then his eyes brightened at the suggestion the cookies might help him break 170.

"Call me tonight," he said.

Tyson Browning, who is the frontrunner for the starting spot against No. 13 Tennessee (4-1, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday, is realistic. At 5-foot-8ish and darned near 170 pounds, he knows he's a little guy, but he does want to get credit at least for every ounce.

"I'm not 155 or 150," he said. "My momma said someone (on TV) said I was 150."

It's yet to be determined if Browning is big enough to be an every down back for the No. 8 Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC) or even if Georgia's coaches will give him that spot, but for now he's the best of the bunch, both Coach Mark Richt and running backs coach Ken Rucker say.

"I've seen it happen before," Richt said. "Warrick Dunn wasn't a very big guy and he was able to do it. Tyson is a little guy, but he's a tough guy. We're just hoping that he can."

Richt talked extensively about the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Dunn while he was recruiting Browning, Browning said.

"He's big enough to do the things we'll ask him to do," Rucker said.

Several schools didn't think that in the beginning. Clemson, South Carolina and Middle Tennessee State all recruited Browning as a defensive back.

"I wasn't going to go to school and play defensive back," he said. "After I talked to Georgia and heard they wanted me to play running back, I stopped talking to anybody else."

Georgia's previous staff was considering playing Browning at defensive back, said Jeff Herron, Browning's coach at Oconee County High School. It was a move he discouraged as strongly as he could.

"I'm glad to see that he's getting the chance to (be an every down back), and I honestly think they're going to be very happy with what he shows them," Herron said.

Browning and Georgia linebacker Tony Taylor led Oconee County to the 1999 state title in Browning's junior season. Browning gained 3,753 yards, scored 55 touchdowns and proved plenty tough in his last two seasons with the Warriors

"I think Tyson could have carried the ball every snap for us, and it wouldn't have bothered him," Herron said. "He's not a huge kid, but he's always played bigger than he is. He's always had a knack for not taking the big hit. He's just so quick it's hard to get a good shot on him."

Georgia has Herron to thank for having both Taylor and Browning. The players came to an agreement in the summer before Browning's 10th grade year that they were done with football, and on the morning the Warriors were scheduled to leave for preseason camp, both were tucked snugly in their bed. However, Taylor made the mistake of telling Herron where he lived, and Herron drove to his house and made him leave with him.

"After I picked up Tony, he squealed on Tyson and we went and picked him up," Herron said. "It was the best coaching move I've ever made."

The Bulldogs also had some problems getting Browning on the field this year. He received a three-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Browning wouldn't identify his transgression but three-game suspensions are rare and considered serious.

"If I could take it back man I would never have gotten involved with what I got involved with," he said.

Georgia's coaches have been very happy with Browning's attitude since he was suspended, even during the first two weeks when he was working with the scout team. As a scout team member, Browning did not attend the running back position meetings and had to get all the paperwork from Rucker after each practice and study it by himself.

"He's a great kid," Rucker said.

Browning made an immediate impact when he returned for the Sept. 20 LSU game, rushing for 20 yards and catching a 93-yard touchdown pass that tied the game late in the fourth quarter. He has just 67 rushing yards and 126 receiving yards this year, but his 96.5 all-purpose yards per game average is the best on the team.

He overcomes his slight stature with an elusiveness that in Herron's words "is breathtaking at times."

Now, the only place he hears about his size is in the media, Browning said. Even opponents don't give him grief after they corral him, Browning said.

"No, they really just say, 'Man you're quick,'" he said.

Name: Tyson Browning
Position: Tailback
Size/class: 5-8, 169.5 pounds/Sophomore
Major: Sports studies
Family: Claims both defensive end Quentin Moses and linebacker Tony Taylor as cousins
High School: Oconee County High School
High School honors: Class AAAA first-team all-state player as senior
... Invited to play in 2001 Georgia High School All-Star Game
College Statistics: 16 rushes for 67 yards ... four catches for 126 yards ... Averaging 9.7 yards per play
FYI: Grew up in Athens but moved to Fayetteville, N.C. for several years, moved back to Oconee County, just outside of Athens, after ninth-grade year

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