The special teams for Georgia was an underlying question going into the spring workout period. Last season Georgia struggled with containing the kickoff returns and kicking the ball into the end zone. However, after G-day and spring workouts, the special teams have improved.
Starting kicker, Rodrigo Blankenship kicked for both teams on kickoff and did well kicking it to the end zone. He made 3-4 point-after-tries and 4-7 field goals. Blankenship kicked three touchbacks on the kickoffs and averaged 65 yards per kickoff. He was the only placekicker to play during the scrimmage and seems to be Georgia’s go-to kick over junior walk-on Tanner Stumpe. While Blankenship looked much improved on kickoffs, he looked eratic at times kicking field goals. If he cannot improve his consistency he’ll have to be mindful of incoming kickers Brooks Buce and David Marvin as they could potentially take his starting spot.
As for punter, Georgia’s has four on the roster: Will Cowart, Michael D’Angola, Marshall Long, and Cameron Nizialek. The starting spot is still up in the air but during the spring, Cameron Nizlalek took most all of the snaps at the position. Nizlalek was the only punter for the G-Day game. During the spring game Nizlalek punted a total of four times for both sides. He averaged 36.5 yards for the Black Team and 40.5 for the Red Team. Nizlalek kicked a 73 and 81-yard punts also on the day. However, I think that once Marshall Long gets healthy, he will challenge Nizlalek and could take over and take back the position.
What about the long-snappers for Georgia? The Bulldogs have plenty to choose from. Trent Frix and John Courson seem to be the two in the hunt for the starting spot. Both have great snapping abilities and experience. Trent Frix was the snapper on punts and placekicks for 12 of the Bulldogs’ 13 games last season and in 10 of 13 games during the 2015 season. And he looks like he’ll be the snapper Georgia kickers rely on for 2017. Courson is ready to step in if needed, though.
Last season, Georgia relied on senior Reggie Davis to handle the kickoff returns and junior Isaiah McKenzie for the punt returns. Both Davis and McKenzie are gone from last year’s team. Which means that 2017 is up in the air as far as the return guys are concerned, but I think that Mecole Hardman Jr., Tyler Simmons, Terry Godwin, and Tyrique McGee could contribute. For the punt returns, I see Terry Godwin and Tyler Simmons being the two go-to guys. However, Hardman Jr. could make a splash here. For kickoff returns, McGee could contribute as well as Hardman Jr, but don’t exclude sure hands, Sony Michel. I don’t think the return guys will be an issue for head coach Kirby Smart and tight ends/special Teams coach Shane Beamer.
After the special teams were such a question mark heading into the offseason, the Bulldogs seem to have an idea of where they are heading. However, with the young guys coming in, the depth chart and starting spots may be looking a tad different come fall camp and especially for the first game against Appalachian State. I predict Georgia to have much-improved special teams and have the ability to limit teams on punt and kick returns and score points special teams points if needed to win those close contests.
Here is a potential depth chart for Georgia’s special teams, post-spring, but as I stated earlier, don’t be surprised to be some changes come fall camp if the current kickers and punter struggle with consistency.
Kickers: 1: Rodrigo Blakenship, 2: Tanner Stumpe
Punters: 1: Cameron Nizlalek, 2: Marshall Long
Long Snappers: 1: Trent Frix, 2: John Courson
Kick Returner: 1: Mecole Hardman Jr., 2: Tyrique McGee/Sony Michel
Punt Returner: 1: Terry Godwin, 2: Tyler Simmons/Mecole Hardman Jr.