Bulldogs Beat

Richt concerned about special teams

ATHENS - Mark Richt had some rather pointed criticism on Wednesday for a couple areas on special teams.

First: Punt return, where Malcolm Mitchell has had some scary moments this season.

"Overall, too many bad decisions, obviously," Richt said. "Not good enough communication. I mean, we've caught the ball inside the 10 when we shouldn't. We've let the ball bounce and not field it when we should. We've had not a very good-looking fair-catch issue. And these are not all Malcolm's issues. We've had very communication at times."

Nonetheless, if Mitchell keeps having issues, then former walk-on Rhett McGowan may get the call because he's dependable.

Mitchell and fellow sophomore Damian Swann have each returned five punts. McGowan has returned two and receiver Chris Conley has one. The longest return of the season is by Swann, for 30 yards.

"It may end up being Rhett McGowan before it's over if he can communicate the best, and secure the ball the best, and field the ball the best," Richt said. "We're trying to find an answer there."

Branden Smith doesn't appear to be an answer right now, despite having returned punts for much of the past three years. Why is that? Because, according to Richt, Smith had similar issues as Mitchell.

"I don't know if everybody's got a short memory or not, but we were having some of the same issues the year before," Richt said. "Right now we're trying to coach and teach, work it all out."

Smith, also speaking after Wednesday's practice, admitted he was surprised he hasn't been returning punts.

"Yeah I'm kinda surprised. But I'm just here to help the team. I'm just playing my role, basically," Smith said.

Then there is Richt's second area of concern: Extra points.

Freshman Marshall Morgan has been very solid on his field goals and kickoffs, but he missed an extra point at Missouri, had another bounce off the upright, and has had a couple more veer too close for Richt's comfort.

"He's an amazing guy. He must have played pinball as a kid," Richt said. "Especially extra points, you would think he could get it a little closer to the center post. I'm smiling now. But it could cost us. Trying to be patient."

Morgan was asked his response.

"No, never played pinball," Morgan said, laughing.

Turning serious, the freshman said: "Yeah they're going in, I'm happy as long as I'm making them. But this week we've been killing the field goals, all straight down."

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