The Georgia Bulldogs will open spring football practice on March 16. Each day between now and then, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will break down the various position groups, analyze the personnel and examine their relative spring-practice objectives. G-Day, the annual spring intrasquad scrimmage, is scheduled for April 17 at Sanford Stadium.
SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW – SPECIALISTS
ATHENS — Jack Podlesny didn’t make the Georgia football media guide last year. Wanna bet he does this year?
A redshirt junior from St. Simons Island, Podlesny is as far as we can tell still a walk-on. How much longer he remains one is a question as he prepares to enter his second season as the Bulldogs’ starting place-kicker. It seems like he might have earned a grant-in-aid last year.
We’re reminded here of Podlesny’s 53-yard game-winning field goal over No. 8-ranked Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. But overshadowed by that career-defining kick was the solid work Podlesny did all season. It was his 13-of-16 mark on field-goal attempts and perfect 38-for-38 on PATs that made Podlesny a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which goes annually to the nation’s top kicker. He should get another shot at that trophy this fall.
Podlesny is just one reason the Bulldogs and coordinator Scott Cochran feel good about their special teams headed into 2021. All three specialists — punter Jack Camarda, snapper Payne Walker and Podlesny — are back after all-conference worthy performances last season. So is primary punt and kickoff returner Kearis Jackson. Other promising athletes will get a looksie there, too.
Credit: Kevin Snyder
Credit: Kevin Snyder
Overall, an overwhelming team strength.
RETURNING STARTERS (4): Senior punter Jake Camarda, redshirt junior place-kicker Jack Podlesny, redshirt junior snapper Payne Walker, punt/kick returner Kearis Jackson.
ALL EYES ON: Camarda
OUTLOOK: An All-American last year (first-team by Pro Football Focus, second by Walter Camp, AFCA and FWAA), Camarda represents Georgia’s best chance of having a first-team All-American this year as well. But he’ll be focused on tidying up his work sheet, which once again included a couple of inexplicable and awfully-timed shanks. But the strength of incredible right leg remains unquestionable, as his 46.58 punting average attests. He also was the Bulldogs’ primary kickoff man, logging 36 touchbacks on 41 kicks. … Podlesny will have to fend off redshirt freshman Jared Zirkel to retain place-kicking duties again and will seek more consistency between 30 and 49 yards, where his three misses came. Both will be charged with protecting Georgia’s NCAA consecutive extra points record, which stands at 330. … The Bulldogs could stand to improve on punt returns, with middle-of-pack average of 7.29 yards on punts, but were fifth in the nation with a 29.7-yard average on kickoff returns. No return TDs last season was somewhat of a rarity for UGA.
UP NEXT: Defensive line
PREVIOUSLY: Offensive line, quarterback, running backs, tight ends, wide receivers.