ATHENS -- Quayvon Hicks blames the protein shakes.
In the effort to put on nearly 20 pounds during the past year, Hicks guzzled all those shakes and saw his body fat go from a chiseled 8 percent to a still pretty-chiseled 13 percent.
Don’t take that to mean he’s in any way out of shape. This is still one of the most chiseled members of Georgia’s offense.
“If you see him with his shirt off, you’ll understand,” junior receiver Michael Bennett said. “He’s jacked.”
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This stat is cited often: Georgia returns 10 starters on offense. And it’s true. But one of those starting spots appears to be switching hands: fullback.
Hicks supplanted walk-on Merritt Hall during spring practice, and so far in the preseason he’s holding the first-team spot. Both will play, and, even with all the offensive skill talent, head coach Mark Richt said the fullbacks will see the field plenty.
“We still like to run the ball in a physical way,” Richt said. “There’s a lot of great runs with a lead blocker. These fullbacks, they earn their keep.”
Hicks is hoping to eventually earn his keep in bigger ways. But right now he’ll settle for just being on the field and blocking for Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Last year, Hicks played in 12 games, mostly on special teams, as Hall emerged as one of the surprising stories of the team. But Hicks has finally caught up, having put on weight and mastered the art of how to block, not just how to hit.
Hicks was a linebacker in high school at Pierce County, and he was good enough to earn scholarship offers from Tennessee and other schools. But he wanted to go to Georgia, so he agreed to play fullback, a position he only played in high school during goal-line plays.
There was an adjustment period last year.
“Quayvon never had a problem with wanting to hit somebody, never had a problem with contact. But knowing who to hit or placement, it’s so crucial,” Richt said. “Not only do you need to know who to block but you need to know what kind of leverage. Are you trying to get the right edge of that guy, the left edge of that guy. There’s a lot of technique that goes beyond knowing who to hit.”
“It was something to adjust to,” Hicks said. “Me, I thought the fullback situation was, ‘Hit linebackers.’ Me, I try to bring that defensive mentality on the offensive side of the ball. At the fullback position, it’s more technical. It’s not like a linebacker. A linebacker can come downhill and hit you any kind of way.”
Once he has that mastered, Hicks is hoping his role will expand.
“I have a couple more years in college, so maybe more runs and screens, I think that’ll come over time,” he said.
In the meantime, when outsiders ask how Gurley and Marshall can have even better years in 2013, part of the answer might involve Hicks paving the way for bigger holes. Or he could also help Aaron Murray in the passing game, perhaps surprising opponents with play-action out of the I-formation, with Hicks there to provide the block.
“Quayvon’s got probably more physical talent than just about anybody,” tight end Arthur Lynch said. “He’s a big guy, can run, he can catch, he moves really well. He’s got good hips, comes out of his stance level and is really explosive.
“For him, he’s just not hesitating anymore. You kind of hesitate when you don’t know what to do. Now he knows what to do, he’s playing full-speed. You can see his physical dominance over people on the defensive side of the ball.”