Georgia Tech’s special teams trying to fix mistakes

Three blocked punts in the past three games don’t inspire confidence in Georgia Tech’s special teams as the Yellow Jackets prepare to face Central Florida on Saturday.

Wide receiver Malachi Carter, who does not play on any of Tech’s special teams, described the blocked punts as “devastating” in terms of trying to get a positive result.

“It’s really difficult,” the senior said. “Just the probability and the percentage of us winning that game just automatically goes down. So, it’s definitely hard to deal with, but it’s all about the mindset of the team. We’ve got to stay together, and, man, anything can happen. So it’s definitely a big effect, though.”

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The timing and location of the placement of the blocked punts have added to the impact of the kicking-game calamities. All three happened deep inside Tech territory, with Clemson getting possession at the Jackets’ 5- and 15-yard lines in the season opener and Ole Miss at the Tech 20-yard line Saturday. The Tigers and Rebels scored touchdowns after all three blocks.

After four empty possessions, Clemson took advantage of its first block to take a 7-0 lead. The Rebels’ block gave them an easy opportunity to go up 14-0 a little more than five minutes into the game.

The Knights (2-1) already have blocked one punt in 19 tries this season. It was returned for a touchdown in UCF’s season-opening win against South Carolina State. UCF also blocked a field goal in Saturday’s win against Florida Atlantic.

Tech’s most recent blocked punt in the 42-0 loss to Ole Miss happened because of a miscommunication between players that didn’t result in a player shifting toward a block, according to coach Geoff Collins. Making it worse, the Rebels weren’t even trying to block the punt, said coach Lane Kiffin. And, piling on, Collins oversees the punt team in practice. Tech ranks last in FBS in blocked punts allowed.

Collins said the entire team gathered Sunday and watched every special-teams play from the Ole Miss game, as is standard practice.

“It’s to educate and correct,” he said Tuesday. “And so we all see, here’s the things that should have happened, here was the breakdown, here’s how it should have been done, here’s how we get it corrected. Go through the educational process.”

The Knights are statistically average when returning punts and kickoffs. They average 9.6 yards per punt return on 10 attempts and 19.4 yards per kickoff return on seven attempts.

Giving hope to Tech, the Knights had a punt blocked by South Carolina State.

Cornerback Zamari Walton said no one wants to see mistakes made by the special teams.

“So we just got to put the ball down and do what we can to get the offense back on the field to score some points,” he said.