Last season was a forgettable one for the special teams unit of the Georgia Bulldogs. Kicker Blair Walsh had his worst statistical season as a Bulldog last year and the coverage units left much to be desired. The unit fell for a fake punt by Melvin Ingram that went for a touchdown against South Carolina and shoddy coverage let Vanderbilt back in to the game last fall.
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt had to make changes and make changes he did.
In an attempt to better his coverage units, Richt asked some of the upperclassmen to contribute and surprisingly, the players welcomed the idea. Players such as Jarvis Jones, Christian Robinson, Tavarres King, and Alec Ogletree were receptive to the idea. The thought behind the move was to add more experience to the coverage team and to show the younger players that playing on special teams is nothing to scoff at. It is hard to judge the performance of the unit in practice, so the true test for Richt’s new plan will come Saturday against Buffalo.
While the Georgia Bulldogs expect a much better performance out of their special teamers, what the team does not what to expect is what it will get out of its kickers.
For the past four years, the Dawgs had the services of Walsh and punter, Drew Butler. Both performed extremely well during their time at Georgia and rank among the schools finest at their respective positions. However, both Butler and Walsh have graduated, leaving the team to rely on two true freshman.
Mark Richt signed kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber as a part of last year’s recruiting class. Both stepped onto campus expecting to be starters but were greeted by competition.
Barber competed with Adam Erickson for the starting punter’s but he performed well enough in scrimmages to virtually seal the deal. Richt praised Barber for the hang-time on his punts after the team’s first scrimmage, a trait that the head coach looks for in a punter.
On the other hand, Marshall Morgan has also faced competition for the Georgia Bulldogs’ placekicking role from Jamie Lindley and the two are in more of a position battle than the punters.
Morgan and Lindley split reps kicking field goals and kicking off throughout the first two weeks of fall practice but ultimately, Marshall Morgan seemed to come out on top. This was until he had a shaky scrimmage, missing multiple field goals. Towards the end of fall camp, it seemed as if Mark Richt had decided on Morgan as the starter but stressed to the media that he was not yet ready to crown a starter.
Georgia released its first fall depth chart earlier this week and it featured Marshall Morgan as the team’s placekicker. The Georgia Bulldogs head coach was asked about Morgan being the starting placekicker and replied with an indifferent response.
“I don’t know how ready Marshall is” said Richt. “I think in time he’s going to do extremely well. What will he do in his first game and his first kick? I don’t know. It will be interesting to see.”
What the Dawgs do know is that to make a run at the BCS National Championship, they will need all-around solid play from their special teams.
Chris Lionetti covers the Georgia Bulldogs and the Southeastern Conference for Rant Sports
Follow him on twitter at: @ChrisLionetti