Even though Georgia might have lost one of the program’s best specialists in former place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, the Bulldogs do return experienced junior punter Jake Camarda. On Thursday, Camarda was named to the Ray Guy Award watch list, which is an honor given annually to the nation’s best punter.
Camarda enters his third season with the program and has two years of starting experience. He won the starting job as a freshman during preseason camp, but struggled at times during his first year as he only averaged 42.6 yards per punt.
Camarda remarkably improved during his sophomore season, finishing sixth in the country and fourth in the SEC in punting average at 46.84 yards [er punt. He helped the Bulldogs improve from 70th nationally in net punting average to eighth in 2019. He also was named a co-winner of the Special Teams Most Improved Player at Georgia’s post-season awards gala. Camarda also had an impressive 25 punts that were downed inside the 20-yard line.
In Georgia’s 21-14 win over Auburn, the Norcross, Ga. native punted 11 times for an average of 50.7 yards per punt. That performance earned him SEC Special Teams Play of the Week honors. He had a career-long 67 yard punt that was downed at the Auburn 2-yard line.
The next Monday head coach Kirby Smart was questioned about sticking with Camarda despite his struggles with consistency at times and commented on his sophomore punter’s performance.
“In that moment, it was obviously one of the pivotal — I mean it was a field position game. So with him doing that, he flipped the field position, did a tremendous job. Can’t say enough about,” said Kirby. “I mean the thing about all the confidence in sticking with him, we’re at practice every day. So you don’t get the fortune of seeing that. But he does that all the time. So everybody’s like, well, is Jake going to continue to be your punter?”
“Yeah, he hit 60 yards at practice. It’s just a matter of when it comes to fruition in the game. You just keep working with him. I think psychologically he’s handling things a lot better, and mentally he’s been much stronger and he’s done a really good job,” added Kirby. “He was very impactful in that game, and just hope he can continue to do that. And we have to cover him well because you can out-kick your coverage when you punt. He’s close to doing that. He’s just booming the ball, but we’ve had good coverage with him.”
That following day Camarda was asked during player interviews if he had lost any of his confidence earlier in the season.
“I never really thought my confidence went down. I probably had a couple of bad punts in the Notre Dame game, but I also had a couple of good balls in the Notre Dame game,” said Camarda. “The one thing that I’ve tried to do is stay positive all year, no matter what happens. I think my confidence level has been good.”
Camarda joins teammates Jamie Newman, Zamir White, James Cook, George Pickens, Tre’ McKitty, Monty Rice, Azeez Ojulari, Richard LeCounte and Eric Stokes in being named to preseason watch lists for their respective positions.
There were 19 players that were named to the 2020 preseason watch list, and three players come from the SEC, including 2019 Ray Guy Award Winner Max Duffy from Kentucky. The complete list of candidates for the award will be released on Nov. 10 and 10 semifinalists will be named by the Ray Guy Award committee on Nov. 24. The list is then cut to three top finalists and all of them will invited to The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 2. with a winner being announced during the airing on Dec. 10.