Georgia’s football team wasted no time this season unveiling a new dimension to its offense: a 6-foot-2, 260-pound sophomore fullback who can make his presence felt as a runner and a receiver. Quayvon Hicks demonstrated those abilities with a 37-yard run against Clemson and a 23-yard catch-and-run against South Carolina, both plays rescuing the Bulldogs from precarious field position.
But it’s not the running or the receiving that Hicks has enjoyed most in his first two games as a UGA starter.
“To be honest, I love blocking,” he said. “I love our running backs on and off the field, and I just love making a block for them. I look at it as if I’m just an athletic offensive lineman in the backfield, basically, to get those guys out of there.”
He made a ferocious block that sprang tailback Todd Gurley on a 75-yard touchdown run against Clemson and had several notable blocks against South Carolina’s All-American defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney.
Hicks, who is from Blackshear, a town of 3,300 in southeast Georgia, is the New Guy on a Georgia offense that returned almost intact from last season. Already, the roles he merges into the fullback position — blocker, playmaker, power runner — have captured the attention of Georgia fans.
Teammates say they saw it coming.
“We’re definitely not surprised at all,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “He’s probably one of the most impressive-looking dudes on the team. I don’t think anyone wants to tackle him in open space. And he’s a great blocker.
“We knew it during camp. You could tell our linebackers every day in camp were getting a little bit more shy to meet him in the hole because that’s a lot of man coming at you full speed.”
In two games, Hicks has 127 all-purpose yards, including 66 yards rushing on seven carries and 61 yards receiving on two catches — impressive numbers for his position. More substantial, though, is the role his blocking has played in helping the Bulldogs pile up 1,081 yards against two top-10 opponents.
“He opens up those holes. He does a great job. He’s very physical,” tailback Keith Marshall said. “And the big thing for him is he’s so athletic that he’s able to do a lot of other things, like run the ball, catch the ball.
“He has worked extremely hard to get where he is, and he’s still working hard. I’m sure he’ll continue to get better and better.”
Recruited by many colleges as a defensive end but by Georgia as a fullback — a position he rarely played at Pierce County High — Hicks hardly got on the field as a freshman last season, except for special-teams duty. He was unable to beat out Merritt Hall at fullback, or after Hall was injured, Zander Ogletree. Hicks’ unfamiliarity with the playbook and the position slowed him and held him back.
“It’s a very technical position,” he said. “Coming in, I thought it was just run-and-hit. There was more to it than that. It humbled me as a person.”
But by spring practice he was displaying improved knowledge of the position, playing faster and more physically, demonstrating his ball skills, blocking well — the same stuff he has shown in this season’s first two games.
“Going into spring, (offensive coordinator Mike Bobo) and all the coaches were, like, ‘Just play like you look,’” said Hicks, who has a prototypical fullback’s body. “I just came out and played like I looked and started hitting people. And then (the coaches) started applying the fundamentals to the way I played rather than changing the way I play.”
Hicks is playing in a noticeably different facemask than his teammates: one with a large, cage-like grill that he said emphasizes the toughness and physicality of his role. Perhaps better demonstrating those traits, however, was his powerful block that sent Gurley on his way to the 75-yard touchdown at Clemson.
“That felt good,” Hicks said.
A week later in Sanford Stadium, he had a pivotal play as a receiver midway through the fourth quarter of the South Carolina game.
Although Georgia led 41-30, which held up as the final score, the outcome was in question until Hicks gained 23 yards on a second-and-9 catch to extricate the Bulldogs from poor field position at their own 3-yard line. That play got the Dogs moving on a drive in which they would burn the game’s final 8:28.
“I feel like, as a fullback, when the ball is in your hands, it’s basically to get a first down or to get us out of a situation that can be dangerous,” Hicks said.
He concedes his season is off to a “pretty good” start, “but I still see a lot of flaws that I have to work on. I’m not satisfied with my performance. There are a lot more blocks that should be made, and I should be more of a spark to the offense.”
UGA fullback Quayvon Hicks has had a number of big plays in Georgia’s first two games:
- Ran up the middle for 37 yards from the Georgia 3-yard line, starting a 97-yard touchdown drive that he finished with a 1-yard score.
- Gained 38 yards on a screen pass (with an assist from teammate Chris Conley, who recovered Hicks’ fumble at the end of the play).
- Made the key block on Todd Gurley’s 75-yard touchdown run.
vs. South Carolina:
- Made the play that perhaps sealed the victory, gaining 23 yards on a catch-and-run to remove the Bulldogs from bad field position at their own 3-yard line and ignite a drive that consumed the game’s final 8:28.
- Had runs of 6 and 15 yards on a third-quarter touchdown drive.
- Made several nice blocks in one-on-one situations against Jadeveon Clowney.