Virtually everything is different around Georgia Tech, and that even includes how the kickers practice. Wesley Wells, who won the placekicking job in the fifth game of the season, said that he and the fellow kickers are in a more intense environment in which they’re doing more kicking, but also having the kicks spread around more evenly.
“It’s going great,” Wells said Thursday following the team’s 11th spring-practice workout. “I’ve been kicking good.”
Wells also knows well new coach Geoff Collins’ penchant for running trick plays out of special teams.
“I’m hoping to get to run the ball a few times,” Wells said. “The one where they (the holders) throw it over their head, something like that.”
There also is a different sort of incentive to win the placekicking job as Wells competes with Brenton King.
“We’re probably going to be kicking a lot more in games just because of the new offense,” Wells said.
Former coach Paul Johnson’s offense was efficient in the red zone, consistently ranking in the top 25 nationally in touchdowns per red-zone trip. Because of that and Tech’s low number of possessions, field goals were often scarce. In the past two seasons, the Yellow Jackets attempted 23 field goals. In the same span, Collins’ teams at Temple took 46 field goals.
Wells is coming off a standout freshman season – he was 9-for-9 on field-goal tries and was 39-for-39 on extra-point tries. Among his nine successful field-goal tries were a career-long 48-yarder in the final two minutes against Virginia to put the Yellow Jackets ahead 27-24 and then the game-winner in overtime from 40 yards, banked off the right upright.
He said this spring, his kickoffs have been between 65 and 75 yards. (It’s 65 yards to the opposing goal line.) That job was held last season by Shawn Davis, who will graduate in May and elected to give up his final year of eligibility at the end of last season.
“I just want to be starting for both (placekicks and kickoffs),” Wells said.
King is intending to compete. King’s freshman season, in 2017, began with him pulling his groin in the preseason. He came back to take over the starting job after Davis’ ACL tear, going 5-for-6 on field-goal attempts and 15-for-16 on extra-point attempts with a 59.2 yards-per-kick average on kickoffs.
Last season, he was 1-for-4 on field-goal tries and 10-for-11 on point-after tries. He appeared in only four games, which enabled him to redshirt last season.
King, though, said he was trying to play through a torn groin muscle last season.
“It’s very uncomfortable, to say the least,” King said. “I told them I could keep kicking and that it didn’t bother me, and we didn’t go into the depths of it because I wanted to keep doing it, and it got to the point where I just couldn’t (play).”
King underwent treatment for the injury, overseen by trainer Mark Smith. He said he started to feel comfortable about two months ago, and that he’s back running, kickoff and taking field goals.
“It’s like a whole weight’s just lifted off my shoulders, and I feel 100 times better, honestly,” King said.
While Wells proved himself, having two capable options available would obviously benefit the Jackets. Walk-on Cliff Gandis, who missed last season after suffering a knee injury playing soccer before his arrival at Tech last year, also is competing.
“They know it’s a hot competition and iron sharpens iron, right?” asked Tech tight ends coach Chris Wiesehan, who doubles as offensive special-teams coordinator. “So the more those two go head to head, it’s an exciting time.”