Georgia head coach Kirby Smart provided an update on how both the place-kicker and punter competitions are shaping during preseason practice.
At punter, Smart alluded to Columbia graduate transfer Cameron Nizialek taking a lead for the spot. Nizialek, who averaged 44.8 yards per punt with a long of 65 in 2016 at Columbia, was Georgia's first-team punter during the spring. Competing with Nizialek is sophomore Marshall Long, who was Georgia's top punter for the majority of the 2016 season.
Long, however, suffered a dislocated kneecap the week of the Auburn game, which prematurely ended his season. Long averaged 38.7 yards per punt as a freshman with a long of 59.
“I think Cam’s doing a good job with the punting. He’s leading that charge,” Smart said. “Marshall is still competing with him.”
At place-kicker, it has become a close battle, according to Smart.
Sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship is once again embroiled in a preseason competition. This time, Blankenship is battling Wofford graduate transfer David Marvin for the starting job. Blankenship made 14-of-18 field goals a season ago after taking the starting job from former Georgia place-kicker William Ham following the third week of the season. In 2016, Blankenship hit a long of 49 yards.
Marvin made 17-of-23 field goals with the Terriers and tied a Southern Conference record with a long of 57 yards.
“The field goal kicking and kickoff situation is really tight,” Smart said. “Those two guys are neck and neck, competing with each other. But it’s still early.”
Compared to this time last year, Smart is pleased with the level of competition that is taking place at both of the key special teams positions.
“I’ve learned we have a lot better competition than we did last year,” Smart said. “The competition is driving each person every day, to raise their level. It’s well thought of that high stress situations create your best. Those guys, they’re like assassins. They got one shot. It’s all they got. They’re getting those kind of hit or miss opportunities every day.”