ATHENS -- Earlier this week, Mark Richt was taking note of the NFL exploits of Blair Walsh, the former Georgia place-kicker: the first rookie to make a 50-yarder in his first three games and perfect so far on seven field goal attempts for the Minnesota Vikings.
Then Richt added, So they got him straightened out.
Walshs struggles were the most visible example of the ills that plagued Georgias special teams last year, and it became an offseason focus for the team. Through four games, the results are mixed.
Georgia ranks in the middle of the SEC in kickoff coverage, kickoff return yardage and punt return yardage and is last in punting yards. That said, the team hasnt given up any long punt or kick returns.
The Bulldogs got a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown from Todd Gurley in the opener, but otherwise there havent been any very long returns.
There have been issues on punt return, including a fumble by Malcolm Mitchell at Missouri, and other judgment issues.
Finally, new place-kicker Marshall Morgan has been pretty good on field goals, going 3-for-4, with a 52-yarder at Missouri. But he also missed an extra point, nearly missed a couple more, and last Saturday a bad snap caused another missed extra point chance.
In the offseason, Richt spoke of an all hands on deck attitude about special teams. Despite that, there has not been a major increase in the amount of starters or regulars on those units.
Two Georgia assistant coaches with a hand in special-teams planning said the notion of more starters on special teams is an overrated quick fix.
I dont think theres any doubt (its overrated), said John Lilly, who coaches the punt coverage unit. Last year when we went back and looked, some of the guys that were on it, who were performing the best on kicking teams were not starters.
Kirk Olividatti coaches the kickoff coverage unit. He also had a hand in special-teams planning during his 12 years as a Washington Redskins assistant coach.
Its just like anything. The guys that practice it are the guys that are gonna be good at it, Olividatti said. We have some talented young guys, that thats something that they can do. Because at the end of the day its their little niche, and theyre excited about it and take it serious.
I know in the NFL, it was like, Oh just put your starters on it. Well, sometimes those guys who have been running down the field for 40 snaps, theyre not as good as another guy. But weve got a good mix, I think, and weve got guys that can come in and out. Were having fun with it, at least.
There are some regulars on punt and kick coverage.
Chris Conley, a receiver, blocked a punt against Buffalo. Safety Shawn Williams and linebacker Amarlo Herrera are on the kick coverage team, as is occasionally Sanders Commings. Connor Norman, who started the first two games at safety, was also on kick coverage.