Georgia punter Jake Camarda is an interesting character, mainly because he has a great personality and a keen sense of humor. This understanding comes to fruition as he’s now met with the media twice since his freshman year to conduct interviews.
As a freshman, Camarda wasn’t allowed to speak with the media. During his sophomore year, he came and spoke once after having an incredible outing against Auburn. Which was a game where he averaged 50.7 yards on four punts and nailed a 67-yarder in Georgia’s 21-14 road win over the Tigers.
Now, as a junior, Camarda is an established starter and a member of the Bulldogs’ leadership council, as well as a team spokesperson. He has now earned that right as fifth-year head coach Kirby Smart trusts him when dealing with the public.
Camarda met with the media via Zoom on Monday, and the 6-foot-2, 180-pound specialist was happy to be there. He replied to every question with a smile and provided a detailed answer, especially the one about his facial hair.
“So, yeah, I kind of do this thing every single year – only a few people notice it; I guess my family, because they get mad at me for it – but I like to do something a little crazy,” Camarda said. “Like, my first year, I had two little lines on my head, like, two stripes. And last year, I did a kind of mohawk/mullet kind of thing. It kind of just grew throughout the year. So, this year, I was, like, what am I gonna do? …
“So, I don’t grow facial super, super quick and it doesn’t grow-in full. But I thought I’d try out maybe a little mustache, a little goatee and see what we can form together with that. We’re going to see where we can take it to, hopefully.”
If Georgia fans are looking for someone to replace the quirky former placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship, then Camarda is the guy in that sense. With Blankenship gone the talented punter now may have another big responsibility on his hands.
He commented on that.
“I’ve done a little bit of placekicking [this fall camp]. I’ve kicked a few field goals here and there,” said Camarda, who is one of just five Georgia returnees to have started both the 2018 and 2019 SEC title games. “And I think I’m competing for the job to be the guy (team’s primary placekicker). But, at the end of the day, I’m going to do whatever Coach [Kirby] Smart wants me to do—whatever he thinks is best for the team.”
Furthermore, if all goes right, then he will take over that role as well, but he has some stiff competition.
Besides Camarda, there are plenty of contenders, including freshman Jared Zirkel. The Texas native was a blueshirt three-star coming out of high school, and was the only specialist that Georgia signed in the 2020 class.
Junior Brooks Bruce, who has kicked off a combined six times in the last two seasons, is a name to watch as well. Redshirt sophomore Jack Podlesny will have a chance alongside six non-roster walk-ons who are also capable of placekicking.
Nonetheless, Camarda will more than likely be the starting punter, which is a position that he’s becoming more consistent at. But he’s a serious contender for place-kicker as well, having handled double-duty when he played at Norcross High School. He actually was one of the nation’s top place-kickers when he signed with UGA back in 2018.
Camarda explained that he likes the competition.
“Anybody who competes for something wants to be the guy,” Camarda said. “So, yes, I’d like to be the field-goal guy; I’m competing to be the field-goal guy. But also, at the end of day, if the coaches think it’s a better idea for somebody else to do it or think it’s smarter or this or that, that’s all right. I’ll do what’s best for the team.”
He also commented on the potential difficulty of handling both jobs at once.
“I wouldn’t say it’s extremely difficult [doing both]. I mean, I did it in high school,” Camarda said. “It was never something I had an issue with. So it’s not too crazy having to juggle the two. For me, it’s kind of like being back in high school.”
As a senior at Norcross in 2017, he missed as many field goals (seven) as he made. Still, four of his seven made field goals were from 50-plus yards out. Which is an incredible for a 17-to-18 year old to handle.
Regardless, whoever wants to fill Georgia’s place-kicking role will have a tough act to follow. Blankenship was the 2019 Lou Groza Award Winner and was also a consensus first-team All-American. In addition, he was also one of the most beloved Georgia players in recent memory. Before every home game, ‘Hot Rod’ received the loudest cheer out of any starter announced.
Blankenship was money on 27-of-33 field-goal attempts in 2019, and became UGA’s all-time leading scorer with 13 points in the win over Texas A&M in November. He finished with 440 points for his career, a number that ranks second in SEC history. He left as UGA’s career field-goal percentage leader at 82.47 percent (80-of-97).
Camara is fighting to take over that role, but Zirkel will be his main challenger in this competition.
“Field-goal kicking is still a competition,” coach Kirby Smart said after the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage Saturday. “We had four guys kick field goals today, but Zirkel kicked the ball well and is in a heated competition for that job.”
Per usual, Smart is leaving no stone unturned, but Georgia’s starting place-kicker will more than likely be one of those two options. Bruce and Podlesny aren’t normally names you hear, but according to both Smart and Camarda, the competition has been good.
“Everybody (all the place-kickers) has been looking pretty good, competing and kicking the ball well,” Camarda said. “Georgia is going to be in good hands field-goal wise. I’m not worried about that at all.”
Camarda is now working under the direction of new special teams coordinator Scott Cochran, who was Alabama’s strength-and-conditioning coach under Nick Saban for a number of years.
“He works with all of us,” he said. “Coach Cochran is a really great guy. He’s out there really rooting for us and wants the absolute best for us. Whether he’s getting on us or picking us up, he’s always on our side for us to get better.”
Now with the season just a few weeks away, time will only tell if Camarda will pull double-duty of just remain as the punter for now.