Today, I’ll continue my series of 5 questions about the upcoming Georgia football season with a look at the strongest unit on the team entering the season, the special teams. With the best kicking tandem in college football in Drew Butler and Blair Walsh, Georgia will clearly have an advantage over every team on the schedule. Combine those two with one of the most feared kick returners in the college game in Brandon Boykin, and the special teams in 2011 will be “special.”
Will Drew Butler hold all the Georgia punting records that matter?
The answer is a resounding yes. Butler is a true weapon consistently flipping field position when the offense struggles and pinning offenses deep when a high coverage kick is necessary. Our punt coverage teams have been really solid because of Butler’s consistency. He’ll enter the season as the best punter in the country pre-season and the favorite to win the Ray Guy Award for a second time in 3 years.
Will Blair Walsh leave Georgia as the school’s best kicker?
It’s clear that Walsh is the best kicker since Drew Butler’s dad kicked it “100,000 miles.” I think he will be better than Kevin Butler because he has done everything without the benefit of the tee. He consistently kicks the ball into the end zone and has been the main cause for the improvement in kick-off coverage. He has already kicked a 58-yard field goal in the first scrimmage of camp. He has been money on field goals over his first three years, and that reliability sometimes has been a crutch to Coach Richt inside the scoring zone.
How will teams deal with kicking off to Brandon Boykin?
As the only player in SEC history with 3 career scoring plays of 100 yards, Brandon Boykin is one of the most dynamic kick returners in the country. With 4 kick-off returns for touchdowns in 3 years, he is a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball. If teams kick away from him, we will definitely be able to control field position and give the offense room to maneuver.
Who is going to pick up the punt return duties?
With the departure of Logan Gray, we don’t have a fair catch specialist. Wait, I mean punt returner. Until the last couple of years, we had great punt returners in Thomas Flowers, Damian Gary, and Prince Miller. We’ll see the return of aggressive play on punt returns this year with Boykin, Branden Smith, or one of the Dream Teamers back returning punts. I’m betting Smith will go back to receive the first punt in the Georgia Dome.
Will we get back to blocking kicks?
One of the strengths of the special teams during the Richt era has been the number and timing of blocked punts and field goals. Most of the time these plays switch momentum in a game. We don’t block field goals as we used to due to the rule change related to jumping over the line of scrimmage (i.e., the Boss Bailey rule). Teams have changed their punt protection schemes to neutralize our ability to block punts. We need to get back to blocking kicks as a gamechanger. Given the lack of experience in BSU’s kicking game, don’t be surprised if we blow the roof off the Dome early with a blocked punt.
While special teams play has always been a tradition at Georgia, this year could represent the best all-around group of special teams players assembled between the hedges. If we don’t have turnover problems on offense, our special teams should win the field position battle every week, and give an improved (hopefully) defense the ability to force teams to drive the length of the field to score.
Those are my thoughts I would like to read yours in the comments below.