ATHENS — Brice Ramsey got a message on Twitter last week from Drew Butler, former Georgia and current Arizona Cardinals punter. Any tips or pointers you need, Butler told him, don’t hesitate to ask, and we can also meet up in the offseason.
Then Butler added something else: Get some kicking cleats.
Yes, Ramsey, who has been punting so impressively the past two games for Georgia, is still doing so with “the same quarterback cleats I’ve been playing in the whole year,” Ramsey said, laughing, and pointing at them in the locker room Saturday. And how much does that matter?
“I have no idea,” he said, smiling. “No I mean I really have no idea. I don’t think it’s affected me yet, so I’m gonna knock on wood and just keep on going with it is.”
One of the great surprises in this Georgia’s football season has been that Ramsey, the presumed heir apparent quarterback, hasn’t started a single game under center. Perhaps the next biggest surprise is that he’s instead become, off all things, the punter. And a very good one.
But ask Jeff Herron, who coached Ramsey at Camden County High School, if he figured four years ago he’d be talking about Ramsey’s punting, he laughs and says: Yes. And not just punting.
“I honestly thought maybe you’d be talking to me about his kicking before his punting,” Herron said. “Quite honestly, he was a better kicker than a punter. Tremendous kicker.”
Ramsey’s arm has always been regarded as the strongest at Georgia since Matt Stafford. His foot received less notice, but as Herron said, it’s not a surprise. Ramsey grew up playing soccer, and kicked and punted as a sophomore, junior and senior at Camden County. There were no qualms about using the quarterback to kick.
“It’s like (ex-NFL coach) Bum Phillips liked to say: You got a big gun, shoot it,” Herron said. “He was too talented to be standing over there while somebody else was kicking and punting.”
Georgia has now caught on to that, plugging in Ramsey at punter the past two games, despite not working him there the past three seasons, and having a senior (Collin Barber) on scholarship to punt.
The team is actually hoping Ramsey will be the punter next year, and it bears noting that kicker Marshall Morgan is also a senior, and the Bulldogs don’t have a commitment from a kicker yet. The question will be whether Ramsey will still be around, or will seek another place to play quarterback.
For now, Ramsey does appear legitimately excited about punting, saying that he’s “excited about pursuing it.” He could see himself doing so in the NFL.
“Oh yeah. I don’t have a problem doing that,” Ramsey said. “They’ve got a pretty good little life for them going on.”
Ramsey has averaged 44.7 yards on his nine punts this season. His longest was 53 yards, his shortest has been 36, with every other attempt at least 40 yards. The one time he punted on the same drive he was at quarterback, against Kentucky, he booted a 42-yarder that was downed at the 11.
“There’s no doubt he has a lot of God-given ability,” Herron said. “He’s a tremendous golfer, he can beat most anybody on campus in ping pong. He’s just that kind of kid,” Herron said. “He’s just a natural athlete in most anything he tries to do.”
But playing quarterback was what Ramsey was signed to do at Georgia. He has watched this season as Greyson Lambert has started eight games and Faton Bauta started another. Ramsey has gotten in at quarterback in five games (six if you count the pass on a fake punt against Florida.)
Coach Mark Richt said Ramsey has handled everything well, praising him for being a good teammate.
“(He) sees a future there for himself as far as continuing to punt for Georgia,” Richt said. “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t continue to punt for us. And continue to battle at the quarterback position, and try to get better every time he gets snaps.”
Ramsey says the same thing, and in fact after Saturday’s game, when he only got two series at quarterback, he was all smiles in the locker room afterwards, happy to talk about his punting.
But his former high school coach thinks quarterback is still very much on Ramsey’s mind.
“Brice is a laid-back kid. He always has been,” Herron said. “While he’s saying the right things, and as a coach I’m sure they appreciate him saying the right things, I think deep down he still wants to be a quarterback. That’s my opinion. What kid wouldn’t want to. I feel like he still would love to have that chance but he’s making the best of the opportunity he does have. That’s a credit to him and the type of kid he is.”