2020 Georgia Football Primer: Who has a leg up on special teams?

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2020 Georgia Football Primer: Who has a leg up on special teams?

IMPORTANT UPDATE REGARDING UGA FOOTBALL’S SPRING PRACTICE:

Friday, March 13, 2020, 4:00 p.m. ET: The SEC announced that all organized team activities, including competitions, team, and individual practices, meetings, and other organized gatherings, will be suspended through April 15th. This includes spring football practices, scrimmages, and games.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET: The SEC has announced all regular-season conference and non-conference competitions are cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-20 athletic year This includes all spring football games and remaining SEC championship events, due to continuing developments related to the coronavirus.

This past week we’ve looked at the different position groups on offense for the Bulldogs in our 2020 Georgia Football Primer, and before we tackle the defense, let’s take a gander at special teams.

Probably the biggest question mark heading into this season for the Dawgs is the placekicker position vacated by Rodrigo Blankenship who finished his fifth-year senior season as the 2019 Lou Groza Award Winner, just one of a plethora of accolades the former walk-on from Sprayberry High School earned during his career at the University of Georgia.

Helping to make that decision will a new addition to Kirby Smart’s coaching staff, Scott Cochran. The former Alabama strength and conditioning coordinator was hired by UGA on Monday, February 24th and named the Bulldogs’ new special teams coordinator.

Junior Jake Camarda has handled the punting duties the last two seasons for Georgia, but he is an equally talented placekicker with a strong leg. The Norcross High School star signed with the Bulldogs as part of their 2018 recruiting class.

UGA placekicker Brooks Buce (97)
UGA placekicker Brooks Buce (97)

Competing with Camarda this spring will be 2017 preferred walk-on Brooks Buce out of Greater Atlanta Christian Academy, now a junior in his third year at UGA, as well as walk-ons Noah Chumley and Jack Podlesny. Chumley is a redshirt freshman out of Savannah Christian Preparatory School, and Podlesny is a redshirt sophomore out of Glynn Academy. Buce was the back-up placekicker behind Blankenship last season seeing limited action in two games early on the season versus Murray State and Arkansas State.

Although fans won’t get to see him until fall, 2020 signee Jared Zirkle out of Tivy High School in the state of Texas could be another potential contender to replace Blankenship at placekicker. He’ll join the team after this summer after graduating from high school.

UGA punter Bill Rubright (93)
UGA punter Bill Rubright (93)

If Camarda doesn’t end up with placekicking duties, he is likely booming punts into the stratosphere once again for the Bulldogs. In the likely hood Camarda does win the job of replacing Blankenship, it is unlikely, although not improbable, that he would pull double-duty. Like Camarda, Chumley can kick or punt and would be a potential candidate at punter. Junior Bill Rubright will also be competing for punting duties. Rubright is in his fourth year as a walk-on out of Marist High School in Atlanta, GA. He was the punter for the Black team in the 2019 G-Day game.

UGA long snapper Payne Walker (47)
UGA long snapper Payne Walker (47)

Speaking of punting, a position often overlooked in its importance to special teams is the long snapper. Many Georgia fans may not know who Steven Nixon is and that is because he did his job consistently well last season. A graduate transfer walk-on from Mercer, Nixon was the long snapper on all of the Bulldogs’ punts in 2019. As with Blankenship, Cochran will be looking to replace Nixon for 2020. That could come down to preferred walk-on Payne Walker. The redshirt sophomore out of North Gwinnett High School handled snapping duties on all of the Dawgs’ placement kicks last year. Also in the mix will be Spain Park High School redshirt freshman walk-on William Mote.

Up next, we take start taking a look at that nasty Georgia defense on Monday and the linebackers.

2020 Georgia Football Primer Series:

I. Quarterbacks: Bulldogs look for a new field general under center

II. New offensive line coach Matt Luke tasked with replacing three starters

III. The next chapter in “Running Back U”

IV. Young and talented receiving corps led by George Pickens

V. Washington and McKitty join talented tight end group of FitzPatrick, Goede, and Seither

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The University of Georgia 1991-1994. Lanier Tech 2009-2012. Writer and graphic artist covering UGA athletics, college football, and recruiting. Peach cobbler fears me!