Bulldogs Beat

Georgia holds faith in ‘unbelievable’ punter Jake Camarda, despite big-game woes

All recollections of Jake Camarda’s performances in practice might lead one to believe that Georgia has an All-American type of punter. On the big stage, however, the sophomore’s numbers haven’t proven it.

Camarda’s inconsistencies appeared in the Bulldogs’ 23-17 win over Notre Dame. He averaged 35 yards per punt on four attempts, but a 24- and-27-yard boot could’ve proved detrimental to Georgia and gave Notre Dame favorable field position. On the season, Georgia has the eighth-best punting average in the SEC at 44.64 yards per kick.

His last big-game showing, in the Sugar Bowl against Texas, Camarda’s knee touched the ground while fielding a snap. An 11-yard shank followed. Nevertheless, Georgia has confidence in sophomore who entered the program as a highly-regarded punter and place-kicker of Norcross.

“We’ve got his back. He’s an unbelievable punter,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said Saturday. “He just didn’t hit great punts tonight. He’ll go back to the drawing board and we’ll keep getting him better.”

Georgia has options at punter if it needed them. Sophomore Bill Rubright and freshman Noah Chumley compete with Camarda at practice, but Smart uses practices as the largest barometer for playing time and said the current starter has “out-punted” each of his teammates. Smart mentioned Rubright and Chumley to indicate that the Bulldogs have competition at every position, and all signs point to Camarda’s role staying in tact.

Camarda is known for his length on punts. Even though his power wasn’t shown against Notre Dame, his teammates see it nearly each time he takes a snap. His high-school coaches recalled him booting punts around 70 yards, and Georgia sees most of the same.

“What we’ve been telling him is just be the guy we know you are in practice,” tight end Charlie Woerner said. “That dude kicks some bombs.”

Georgia’s focus is hangtime and coverage on punts as they hope Camarda will serve as a viable replacement for Cam Nizialek — the Bulldogs’ former punter who punted with the AAF’s Atlanta Legends and had NFL looks with the Baltimore Ravens. Nizialek pinned opponents deep into disadvantageous field position, so Georgia values those qualities over distance.

Each of Camarda’s teammates believe he will do it, too. If he doesn’t they’ll pick him up as they did against the Fighting Irish with a strong defensive stand.

“No one’s mad at him, no one’s doing anything bad,” Woerner said. “He’s just getting back out there, getting back in the rhythm and keep kicking because he’s a really good kicker.”

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