How special is special teams play going to be in 2013?

Most of the offseason angst surrounding Georgia has been over the early season schedule and the defense, but it’s worth wondering if there’s another front where we should be concerned.

Ed Aschoff ranks Georgia’s special teams dead last among all such SEC units, and while that may be unduly pessimistic (Steele rates them closer to middle of the pack status), I don’t know anyone at this point who’s looking at them as a team strength.

Last year was a pretty sad story, at least as it’s told at cfbstats.com.  Georgia’s special teams excelled at one thing, finishing first in the conference in blocked kicks/punts, did decently in another (sixth in kickoffs) and were sub-par to awful (dead last in punt coverage) in every other facet of the game.  There’s a reason Richt elected to attempt the fewest number of field goals in the SEC last season.

Toss in Marshall Morgan’s early season suspension woes and it’s not a pretty picture we’re looking at in 2013.  Is there room for optimism, or is this just more slack the offense will be expected to pick up?

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “How special is special teams play going to be in 2013?

  1. Cojones

    Aschoff gets banged around as anti-UGA because he got a degree at FU and I’ve always thought that was sad…until now. Saw his listings yesterday and compared the top team description to description of us. Averages for punting distance, field goals missed, etc was a wash . Punt return comparative descriptions still didn’t match what was seen last year and it didn’t seem that terrible. That puts my observations in the same class with Aschoffs: – pretty poor.

    • gastr1

      He’s not always been a Dawg-grader; mostly it’s elevating FU, or writing about FU where no mention was merited (a la Bill Simmons and the Celtics).

  2. gastr1

    Oh, well, if Aschoff the Gator Homer says it, it must be true.

  3. W Cobb Dawg

    Perhaps last seasons poor performance can be attributed to the lack of depth and the new kicker & punter. I think the 30+ signees looking for playing time, plus another year under the system for our K & P will help us take a step up. But we still need lots of improvement.

  4. paul

    I don’t know. I think we were so solid for so many years on special teams, especially field goals, that we may have become complacent. I’m not sure what happened, or perhaps more to the point, didn’t happen. But we should be able to do better. Over the past few years this has become very much like or Willie Martinez defenses were at one time. We knew we needed to better and we kept saying we were going to do better but never actually did.

  5. I’ll give that our kickers being freshman was a factor, but specialty teams is not a one year problem. Last year actually seemed to be a moderate improvement over previous years. Specialty teams is the one part of the ship that Richt has not corrected, and it has cost us games (S.C. 2-years ago, Mich. St.). Richt said he was going to school himself on specialty teams this off-season. Haven’t heard much else about that. Hope it’s fixed.

  6. Cosmic Dawg

    I know roster mgmt is difficult, but do we have to have “The Area of Concern” every year? I know that’s sometimes relative / subjective, and the kids don’t always pan out, but seriously – any reason we can’t sign a decent K and P every year or so, and 2-4 OL every class, too? I know the talent isn’t always available when its convenient, but we always seem to be under the gun to fill a bunch of holes with freshmen…perhaps that’s just the nature of the beast.

    • Hackerdog

      Is this a trick question? Because the obvious answer is the 25-man signing class limit and the 85-scholarship limit.

      Ah, the good old days, when you could have 3 long snappers on scholarship. :)

      • Bobby

        Yea, giving schollies to HS kickers and punters is questionable in the first place. At a school like UGA, there’s usually a good walk-on pool to draw from; if one of those guys proves himself, then give him a scholarship. At most, we should have 3 kicking specialists (and only if there is significant class separation b/w the 1st stringer and heir-apparent at the position) on scholarship at any given time.

        Billy Bennett, Brandon Coutu, Gordon Ely-Kelso, Brian Mimbs: Not bad for a bunch of former walk-ons. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong about whether they were awarded schollies upon arriving on campus, but if memory serves, that’s right.

        Contrast that w/ the rash of players given schollies before arriving on campus: Andy Bailey, Drew Butler, Blaire Walsh, Brandon Bogotay. Bailey got his spot taken by Coutu. Bogotay was recruited almost solely for kickoffs, and he was never even utilized. Butler and Walsh, while good for a couple of seasons, were mediocre in their first season and dreadful in their final season.

        So far, Morgan and Barber have been dreadful and mediocre, respectively.

      • Cosmic Dawg

        The reason for all my caveats – I get the scholarship limits, guys don’t pan out, natural and unexpected attrition, etc – I know you can’t just fill out a Christmas list and get a four star guy at every position every year.

        But It just seems like we’re always scrambling to replace an entire unit or key positions with freshmen, and it would be nice to see a more even succession from class to class.

  7. Dawg in Beaumont

    It can be a positive if we just go all 2011 Florida and go for it on 4th down.

    7 points>3 points

  8. Dolly Llama

    Rex Robinson. Kevin Butler. John Kasay. Blair Walsh. How the hell did we get to where we’re at now? I’m with Paul above. This is getting to be Willie Martinez territory – especially since Walsh, with one quick fix, has settled right in with the Vikings.

    • Hogbody Spradlin

      Dolly, you young whippersnapper. Alan Leavitt was a 4 year kicker and all conference right before Robinson. Saw him kick a 58 yarder against Vandy in 76.

  9. Bobby

    I think there’s probably been greater emphasis on the more important phases of the game (defense). As long as we have good KO coverage and limit big returns on punts, we’ll be good. Overall, I think we’ve been decent in these categories, at least in KO.

    The kicking game will sort itself out. Remember that Blair Walsh was pretty unreliable his first year (although he was simply horrendous in his senior season).

    I don’t think we need explosive returns. Those are great, but if you score that quickly, the defense goes right back out of the field tired. I’d rather see us improve fundamentals and judgment on returns. Know when to let it roll. Know when to fair catch. And if you decide to catch it, for the love of God, catch it. We’re explosive enough on offense, that we don’t need big returns. We just need to make sure we are proficient enough in coverage to win the field position battle defensively.

  10. uglydawg

    When your goals are as high as UGA’s are this year, you cannot afford to “let the kicking game sort itself out”. The first game(s) could very well come down to special team play.
    As far as Georgia having fewer field goal attempts in 2012, at least part of that must be a posiive attribution to the efficiency of AM and the O. I personally saw that as a good thing…and it becomes a particularly good thing when your kicker is suspect. If you’re ninety percent confident you can get three points from the thirty, good…If your only fifty percent confident…well.. fourth and almost any distance looks like a better option with AM throwing the ball…or Gurley running it.
    It’s an odd twist of things…going for seven as the “backup” to going for three..but that’s where this offense is…and it’s because of two factors…doubt about the kicking game and confidence in the offense. Oddly that has worked out pretty good and may again. But I don’t want to count on it despite feeling that if either factor slips it will cost points.

    • Mudcats Impala...

      uglydawg
      July 13, 2013 at 5:05 PM
      When your goals are as high as UGA’s are this year, you cannot afford to “let the kicking game sort itself out”. The first game(s) could very well come down to special team play.
      ———————————————————————————————
      Ed(freakin’)Zachary…..