Georgia returns one of the best placekickers in the country. Rodrigo Blankenship is back after coming off a record-breaking season. However, the Bulldogs must replace punter, Cameron Nizialek. After fall camp, the special teams seem to be on track to repeat what they accomplished last year.
Kickers and Punters: Who Does Georgia have?
Georgia, of course, returns Blankenship who’s coming off a fantastic season. He made 20-23 field goals which is a 90 percent completion rate. Of those 20 kicks, he made three from 20-29 yards, six from 30-39 yards, six from 40-49 yards, and five from 50+ yards. His longest of the year was from 55 yards. As for kickoffs, Blankenship tacked down 67 touchbacks after only having 19 in the 2016 season.
Behind Blankenship, Georgia has Jake Camarda, Brooks Buce, and Jack Podlesny. Camarda is probably the one to compete the most with Blankenship. However, the Bulldogs may need him at punter.
At punter, Georgia’s looking for its starter. As I mentioned above, Camarda is one of those guys competing for playing time. The other guy that’s fighting for that spot is Landon Stratton, a graduate transfer. Both Camarda and Stratton have competed all fall long with each other and may share the snaps for a while. Behind them, Georgia has Bill Rubright and Marshall Long. However, Long is unlikely to participate this season after another injury.
What to expect with Kickers and Punters:
Blankenship without a doubt holds onto his starting position, and will likely match his numbers from last season. He will probably come in for Georgia and make clutch kicks all year long.
As for the punters, I expect Camarda and Stratton to duke it out during week one of the season. However, depending on the performance, with his experience, Stratton could close the deal at least for this season. Camarda has a lot of talent but needs to be groomed some.
Punt and Kick Returners: Who Does Georgia Have?
Georgia returns punt and kick returners Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin, and Ahkil Crumpton. The Bulldogs have plenty of talent that can return the ball with ease.
Hardman grew into the role last season and after a rocky start, turned out to be the go-to guy. Last season he led the team with 23 punt returns for 271 yards and 20 kickoff returns for 505 yards. His longest punt return was for 30 yards, and the longest kickoff was for 47 yards. He ranked among the top returners during the latter part of the season.
Outside of Hardman, the Bulldogs have Crumpton, Godwin, Elijah Holyfield and many other targets to use.
What to Expect with Punt and Kick Returners:Hardman is ready to break out a kick off or punt return for a score. He got close many times last season but never could make it. I look for him to be hungry at that kickoff/punt returner spot as Hardman is likely to keep his job. However, he may have to share it with Crumpton. The transfer wideout continues to grow and make plays in fall camp. He’s got some experience from last year and is ready for more responsibilities.
Georgia’s returners may learn to take turns at returning punts and kicks, but I expect both of them to be top receivers this year. Crumpton is on my break out list, and cannot wait to see the noise he creates.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
PLACEKICKER: 1. Rodrigo Blankenship | 2. Jake Camarda
PUNTER: 1. Landon Stratton | 2. Jake Camarda
KICK RETURNER: 1. Mecole Hardman Jr. | 2. Ahkil Crumpton
PUNT RETURNER: 1. Mecole Hardman Jr. | 2. Terry Godwin| 3. Ahkil Crumpton