Haynes keeps surpassing expectations at Georgia

"Anytime I get the ball, I'm looking to cross into the end zone,'' said Haynes, who described his running style as "pure determination.''

ATHENS, Ga. — For a modest guy, Verron Haynes is talking a lot about bragging rights this week. Haynes wants to leave his senior season at Georgia with bragging rights to the state, rights that can only be won with a win at No. 21 Georgia Tech Saturday night.

"You want to be able to see them in the mall and say ‘Hey, we won the last one,' '' Haynes said.

But Haynes also wants to be able to brag about the balanced offense he was a part of in that senior season, and that right can only be won if No. 19 Georgia continues to prove it can run the football.

"I just think in this league you've got to be able to do both, run and throw,'' Haynes said. "They complement each other.''

Last week at Mississippi, Haynes needed no complement. In the second half, Coach Mark Richt limited quarterback David Greene to three passes, and Haynes was the workhorse running back as Georgia scored the first 28 points of the half to win 35-15.

Haynes, whose previous career rushing high was 86 yards against Kentucky this season, rushed for 113 yards in just the second half. He finished with 192 yards rushing — the most for any Georgia back in almost 10 years — and two touchdowns.

The game proved just how far Haynes has come since he was a walk-on player trying to make an impression on the scout-team offense. Haynes' break came in 1999 when Mike Bobo, then a graduate assistant coach, noticed him level starting linebacker Mike Luckie with a devastating block while playing on the scout-team offense.

"I just hit him and everybody started hooping and hollering,'' Haynes remembered. "Coach Bobo called (Coach Jim) Donnan over to watch us run some more plays. It was a break for me. That was the start for me.''

Haynes, who began his career at Western Kentucky as a running back, quickly earned a reputation at Georgia for his blocking. Though he started two games at running back in 2000, he was listed at fullback when Richt brought back the I formation.

But even last spring, Richt noticed that Haynes could do more than block, and when starting tailback Musa Smith began to struggle with a groin injury, the coach was quick to note that Haynes was his most dependable healthy running back.

Finally, early in the game-week preparations for Ole Miss, it was apparent Smith could not handle more than a few carries, if that many.

"I went up to Coach Richt (On Monday) and said ‘If you need me, I'm there for you,' '' Haynes said. "After that practice, he came up to me and said ‘We're going to give you a shot.''

Haynes started with J.T. Wall moving up at fullback. Richt's confidence in Haynes was obvious from the start, when the senior — a native of the Bronx, N.Y., who attended North Springs High School in Atlanta — was given the ball on the first two plays of the game.

The 5-foot-11, 223-pound Haynes quickly began to wear down the Rebels' defense, and on Georgia's second possession he was given the ball three straight plays for gains of 5, 5 and 13 yards, with the last run for a touchdown.

It was obvious this would be a different day for the Georgia offense when the Bulldogs opened the second half with a nine-play touchdown drive — all on the ground.

"That's a fullback's dream, to just basically get 100 yards, must less to almost get 200,'' said Wall. "That's just a dream.'' Tech's defense will be tougher than the Ole Miss defense against the run, but Georgia will give Haynes every opportunity to prove he can carry the offense again.

"We'll see how it goes,'' said running backs coach Tony Pierce. "We'll keep an eye on Musa and Jasper (Sanks) ran well last week, but with the way that (Haynes) ran, how can you deny that we're going to use him again?''

Georgia cornerback Decory Bryant, who has spent most of the season on the No. 2 offense that regularly works against the No. 1 offense, could empathize with the Ole Miss defenders who could not stop Haynes at the line.

"He's pretty difficult to bring down,'' said Bryant, who will move up as a starter against Tech. "He doesn't have many moves, but he's a hard runner with a low center of gravity.''

Haynes apparently was unaware he was approaching the 200-yard mark.

"At the end of the game he said ‘Did I have over 100?' '' Pierce said. "I think he had over 100 in the third quarter.''

But Haynes does not expect there to be more games where Georgia is such a run-oriented offense. The goal is balance.

"Anytime I get the ball, I'm looking to cross into the end zone,'' said Haynes, who described his running style as "pure determination.''

Watching Haynes ramble through the Ole Miss defense, Georgia fans may have wondered how it took this long for Haynes to have the lead role.

"That's the same thing Coach Richt said,'' Haynes said. "He said ‘After the last game, I should have done that a lot sooner.' ''

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