ATHENS — Since Kirby Smart became Georgia’s head coach prior to the 2016 season, the Bulldogs have always excelled on special teams.
Smart doesn’t expect that to change in 2023, even as the Bulldogs have to find a new kicker.
Jared Zirkel and Peyton Woodring are competing to replace Jack Podlesny, who was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year last season. Podlesny made 26 of his 31 field goal attempts, while also handling kickoff duties for Georgia.
Zirkel is the more experienced option, with Woodring only arriving on campus this summer. But to this point in fall camp, Smart is pleased with what he’s seen from both kickers.
“One was 3-for-3, one was 3-for-4 today,” Smart said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “I thought they both kicked much better than what they did last week. The conditions were a little better today. They kicked better throughout the week. They’re both talented guys. I could make the case for both of them, either one of them to start right now.”
According to those who saw the scrimmage, Zirkel was the one who went 3-for-3. In his Georgia career, he’s 1-of-1, making his lone attempt in last year’s win over South Carolina. He’s also had nine career kickoffs in his time at Georgia.
Woodring was the No. 1 ranked kicking prospect, signing with Georgia over Alabama as a member of the 2023 recruiting cycle.
Smart isn’t feeling rushed to make a decision and intends to use Georgia’s practices this week to get a better idea of finding out who will be Georgia’s starting kicker for the 2023 season.
“They both had a really good fall camp and we don’t have to make a decision on that,” Smart said.
The Bulldogs do bring back punter Brett Thorson, who will be in his second season as a starter. It is not known who will be the team’s holder, as Stetson Bennett held those responsibilities last season. Thorson, quarterback Carson Beck and wide receiver Ladd McConkey are all possible options. Smart said at SEC media days that Georgia would prefer to let the starting kicker decide who will be the team’s holder.
“I like for it to be a quarterback, not necessarily THE quarterback, but we’ve opened up this year to try Ladd, and other guys back there,” Smart said. “Stetson had done it for so long and he made me comfortable with his athleticism and speed. Of course, he could throw, but we don’t know who it is yet. We’ll decide it in fall camp.”
Georgia opens the 2023 season against UT-Martin on Sept. 2.