Georgia football-Jack Podlesny-Kirby Smart
Georgia Bulldogs place kicker Jack Podlesny (96) celebrates with quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) after Podlesny kicked a field goal during the third quarter against the Kent State Golden Flashes in a NCAA football game at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, September 24, 2022, in Athens, Ga. Georgia won 39-22. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Even if Kirby Smart ‘hates’ having to use Jack Podlesny, he’s been a great kicker for Georgia football

ATHENS — Jack Podlesny gets it. He knows that every time he jogs out onto the field his head coach is less than thrilled.

Not so much because of Podlesny himself, but because of what it usually means for the offense.

“I think every head coach is unhappy when he’s got to settle for a field goal and not a touchdown,” Podlesny said. “But at the end of the day, I just tried to walk out there be consistent, make the points.”

Podlesny has made it look easy so far this season, with the only miss coming on a 54-yard attempt against Samford. Those results though don’t fully capture all the work and adjustments Podlesny made this offseason.

After working with special teams ace Jake Camarda, Podlesny has a new holder. That would be starting quarterback Stetson Bennett, a rarity these days given his importance to the Georgia offense.

For Bennett and Podlesny, there was an adjustment period. One that took a lot of reps to build a trust that Bennett would be able to line the ball up and that Podlesny wouldn’t kick him in the hand.

“I got to put a lot of trust in him,” Podlesny said on Tuesday night. “At the beginning of spring, when I was told Stetson is going to be holding for me, I was like, ‘Okay, that’s going to be interesting.’ Jake had held since his freshman year and Jake did a great job, no one better to do it. And so, the spring was tough, had to trust Stetson and there wasn’t much trust at first in the spring.”

Podlesny compared it to playing golf and stepping into a shot with an unfamiliar club. Another challenge presented by Bennett being the holder is that most of the time he’s focused on getting the most out of the Georgia offense, and making sure to put in extra reps with the Georgia pass catchers.

After practices tPodlesny still makes sure to grab Bennett and snapper Payne Walker to try and bang home at least 10 kicks. Even as Podlesny grows more trusting in his relationship with Bennett, the senior kicker knows he can’t afford to rest on past performance.

“Over the summer, got some work, early into August, got more work with Stetson, got really comfortable with him,” Podlesny said. “So, that relationship has grown a lot and I’m happy to see that.”

Related: Stetson Bennett pukes and rallies Georgia football to another dominant showing

In the event that Bennett is unable to hold — as was the case against South Carolina when he was vomiting on the sidelines — Georgia would turn to freshman punter Brett Thorson. The Australian has been used even less than Podlesny this year and he’s still fully learning how to hold a football. The expectation is that he will take up those duties once Bennett moves on after this season.

In 2022 Georgia will still turn to Podlesny and Bennett when they need a kick. The hope is that if Bennett improves its accuracy in the red zone passing game and Georgia gets better at running into crowded fronts, that will be mostly for extra points and not field goals.

“We hate that we have had to kick as many as we’ve had,” Smart said. “That’s been the Achilles heel of our offense. We may not punt, but we kick a lot of field goals. It’s fun for Pod, but it’s not fun for the rest of us. That’s been one of the areas that we have targeted to get better at coming off of last year, and it’s really great to have Pod.

“The reliability and the consistency that he has played with has been great, but the hope is you don’t have to rely on him all the time because you score touchdowns.”

Jack Podlesny shares his unique relationship with Stetson Bennett

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