ATHENS — The NFL has existed since the 1920s, but it took until 2014 for the first punter to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There are only three in the College Football Hall of Fame, and two of them (Randall Cunningham and Pat McInally) played other positions, too.
It’s the game’s least glamorous and recognized position. And yet, Georgia places a heavy value on it. It has had a punter on scholarship continuously for more than a decade, and at this moment actually two, if you count Brice Ramsey, with an offer extended to another one for the 2018 class.
That speaks to valuing the position but also to some uncertainty.
For all the deserved attention that the kicking spot has gotten, there’s been a lot of news this offseason on punter. Actually, it could be intertwined. The two graduate transfers coming in, David Marvin and Cameron Nizialek, can kick and punt. (Although Nizialek seems to primarily be a punter, while Marvin has been told he’ll compete for place-kicker.)
Then there’s the returning guys. How is Marshall Long’s rehabilitation going? He’s definitely not expected back for spring, but what about summer? Ramsey has a year of eligibility remaining. Will he be an option at punter?
Then there was the scholarship offer to Norcross High School prospect Jake Camarda, rated the No. 1 punter prospect (and No. 4 kicker) for the 2018 class. Does that speak to concerns about the position going forward?
The depth-chart series began with the safeties.
Then we had the cornerbacks.
We moved on to the outside linebackers.
And then, of course, the inside linebackers.
The very talented defensive line.
Done with defense, we went to the place-kicking and kickoff spots.
Now we come to …
- Returning starters: Marshall Long, Soph.; Brice Ramsey, Sr.
- Others returning: Will Cowart, Soph.
- Early enrollees: None.
- On the way: Cameron Nizialek, Sr.; David Marvin, Sr.
- Analysis: Long’s freshman season came to an end because of the broken kneecap incurred in practice. It was a solid season (38.7 yards per attempt, 14 out of 49 fair-caught, 14 downed inside the 20) but left plenty of room for improvement. Ramsey finished the year, punting 20 times for an average of 34.7 yards. Now both would seem to be uncertainties: Long because of the injury, and Ramsey because he’s set to graduate and could look to go somewhere he could start as the quarterback. There’s been no firm word on that front yet. Nizialek’s punting stats at Columbia the last few years were good, and Marvin also punted well. So there’s a lot going on here, and a lot to be hashed out, not just this year but for the future.
- Bottom line: If Long emerges from rehab as healthy as before, he’s the favorite to be the punter in 2017. But there’s apparently enough worry about it that the team is preparing contingency plans.
Next: Offensive tackles.