JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Brice Ramsey had wanted to see the field a lot sooner than Saturday. And he wanted it to be as a quarterback, not punter. There reaches a point, however, where you just become happy to finally be part of the show.
“It’d been a good little while,” Ramsey said. “It was weird how the first time I punted this season was the Florida game, and last year was the Florida game too. It was just, I don’t know, a homecoming, to go out there and punt again.”
It may only be a temporary return to the field, as Georgia’s coaching staff still has confidence in the starting punter, a freshman. No big deal to Ramsey. He was beat out by a freshman at quarterback too.
It was just over a year ago that Ramsey was the favorite to be named Georgia’s starting quarterback. He was the strong-armed kid who had been groomed for the job. Then he lost the job to graduate transfer Greyson Lambert, and then this year it was freshman Jacob Eason, relegating Ramsey to No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart, an afterthought.
Punting could have been Ramsey’s fall back, and he did that pretty well after taking over late last season. But this year freshman Marshall Long came in and took the job – until midway through Saturday’s game, when he was pulled following a 20-yard punt.
Enter Ramsey, who punted three times for an average of 32 yards. It was exactly the same average for Long, who alternated with Ramsey late in the game. Neither could grab the full-time duties.
“It’s a thrill a minute,” head coach Kirby Smart cracked afterwards. “The Brice thing was a change-up. We can’t continue to do the same thing, so we changed it up. It helped some, but he didn’t hit it real great either.”
Ramsey, known for a booming left leg, tried something different with his punting on Saturday, a rugby style in which he ran at an angle before sort of pooching it.
“It was kind of unorthodox for me, not something I’d done much of,” Ramsey said. “But we had been working on it quite a bit, and it was something that kind of came natural, and it worked out.”
Long has struggled with his hang time this year, and his consistency. But afterwards Smart made clear they still have confidence in him.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t expect to use Brice today. I had complete confidence that Marshall was going to be able to kick the ball,” Smart said. “He kicked well in practice, he really did. He’s struggling a little bit, he’s in a slump. And we’re going to get him out of that slump because we love him. And the thing is, he can punt, he’s a good punter. He’s struggling with rhythm, he’s struggling with timing, he’s not getting hang time that we need.”
As for Ramsey, he hasn’t completely given up on quarterback. A thumb injury prevented him from throwing for about a month, but he said he’s basically over that now.
Still, it’s clearly Eason’s show now, and Ramsey – who rooms with Eason on the road – sounded all the supporting notes.
“Obviously it didn’t work out how I wanted it to,” Ramsey said of the quarterback competition. “But it’s been really cool to watch him progress. From playbook to snap counts to reading coverages. I’ve just been able to watch him grow a lot and it’s been interesting.”
Bizarrely, Ramsey on Saturday became the only Georgia quarterback to meet the media since spring practice began in March. Smart’s media rules prevent freshman from talking, and he’s also denied media requests for Lambert – or Ramsey, but that ended Saturday when he stepped on the field. As the punter, that is.
Ramsey said all the right things Saturday. He would do anything to help and support the team, and he’d be ready for the quarterback competition again next year.
“I’m good,” Ramsey said. “Any way I can contribute. If I’m playing, I’m playing, if I’m helping him maybe diagnosis a coverage, or plays, something like that. I’ll do anything to contribute to this team.”