ATHENS – As for those punting problems, the Bulldogs plan to kick their way out of them.
Georgia lost to Florida for a lot of reasons this past Saturday. Punting – and field position specifically – had as much to do with it as anything.
Freshman Marshall Long and redshirt junior Brice Ramsey both took cracks at it against the Gators, and neither came through. At the end of it, they both averaged exactly 32 yards on eight punts.
Who’ll handle the job this Saturday against Kentucky remains undecided.
“We’ll decide based on practice this week,” Smart said. “They’ve both punted this week and we’ll go with whichever one we think hits it best.”
Exaggerating Georgia’s deficiency against the Gators was the job Florida’s punter was doing. Johnny Townsend, the SEC’s leader, averaged 47.8 yards on eight punts. The end result was 127 “hidden yards” that Georgia lost on changes of possession. Not including two meaningless, last-minute possessions and one after an early turnover, the Bulldogs’ average field position was the 21-yard line.
As far as Saturday’s game at Kentucky, the good news is punting is not an area of strength for the Wildcats either. They’re 13th in the SEC in net punting at 37.7 yards. The only team worse is Georgia at 34.8 yards.
The Bulldogs have only Long and Ramsey to turn. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound Long was a 3-star prospect coming out of South Rowan High in China Grove, N.C., this past year and averaged 46.5 yards per punt as a high school senior. But he has struggled with consistency all season enters the Kentucky game last in the league with a 38.4 yard average.
Ramsey remains a full-time quarterback but has punted in practice all season. He became the Bulldogs’ primary punter last season after Collin Barber struggled. He averaged 41.9 yards on 25 punts and put five inside the 20.
“They’re both still working,” Smart said. “Obviously one’s left (footed) and one’s right, so that dictates some of it. We try to go literally off of practice, which guy punts better in practice and (most) consistently. The new kid has punted better than Brice, but we decided to change it up in the game because he wasn’t punting real well.”
Ramsey’s action against Florida was his first of the season. Curiously, he went to a rugby-style punt against the Gators, something he hadn’t employed previously. His long was only 36 yards.
Ramsey is also the Bulldogs’ third-string quarterback and that remains his primary focus.
“He’s with the quarterbacks pretty much all day,” Smart said. “He goes with the specialists during the punt periods and … a couple of other periods. But he’s still over there getting reps with (the quarterbacks) because his hand is better. He’s throwing with the 2s some and alternating with Greyson (Lambert).”
Ultimately, Smart believes Long will kick his way out of it.
“He’s in a slump,” Smart said. “And we’ll get him out of that slump because we love him.”