Georgia Tech specialist Austin Kent’s role could expand this season

In his second season at Georgia Tech after arriving as a graduate transfer from UCLA, specialist Austin Kent could be heavily involved in the Yellow Jackets’ kicking game. Kent is competing at two jobs this preseason, at punter (with David Shanahan) and kickoff specialist (with Gavin Stewart). He’s also holding on placekicks for kicker Brent Cimaglia.

Comfort level and knowledge of expectations “is the biggest thing coming from Year 1 to Year 2, to where now it’s just a matter of just going out and executing,” Kent said Thursday.

Kent took 41 of Tech’s 45 kickoffs last season, recording 11 touchbacks (26.8% touchback rate) and averaging 63.8 yards per kick. The touchback rate ranked 12th among 13 specialists in the ACC who qualified for ranking. Kent said he was feeling confident about his kickoffs after making adjustments in the offseason and was focusing more on hitting the ball well over achieving other results.

“I would say my goal is just solid contact because all the technicalities are there,” he said. “I know what I’m doing. It’s more or less just about going out there and executing and enjoying what you’re doing.”

Kent’s competition with Shanahan, a freshman from Ireland, has appeared close. Among other things, it’s the rare punting competition between two left-footed punters. Last year, Kent punted in the Duke game when Pressley Harvin was out. He averaged 41.3 yards on three punts, with all three fair caught.

“I think David and I have been competing very well,” he said. “It’s not really something that is too personal, where we both are trying to elevate each other’s game.”