After seeing a late-game drive stall, Georgia called upon Cameron Nizialek to pin South Carolina deep.
On the opposing 47-yard-line, the fifth-year specialist executed a punt with plenty of hang time. The ball came nose-down with Mecole Hardman getting in front of it at worst spot imaginable for South Carolina — inside the 1-yard line.
“That’s kind of how you draw it up,” Nizialek said. “That was a big play for us.”
Nizialek has been consistent in providing relief for Georgia when possession needs to change hands. The graduate transfer persistently strives to improve on a number of specific areas, including hang time and limiting touchbacks — Nizialek tallied two in last Saturday’s 24-10 win over South Carolina.
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Nevertheless, his efforts have played a large role in Georgia’s special teams unit becoming a strength for the first time in quite a while. Through nine games, Nizialek has averaged 44.3 yards per punt with a long of 59 yards against Vanderbilt.
The praise has continued to come from head coach Kirby Smart, as one of his most-valuable contributors isn’t counting against his scholarship tally.
But after this season, the services of the veteran specialist are gone and the Bulldogs will have to revert to entrusting a younger, less-experienced punter. Georgia has Marshall Long — who continues to recover from a knee injury suffered at the end of last season — and freshman Bill Rubright behind Nizialek on the depth chart. The Bulldogs will welcome Jake Camarda into the fold next season as he accepted a scholarship offer on April 22.
With the change soon to happen, Nizialek has taken on a second role and has helped Long, Rubright and other walk-on specialists develop throughout the week.
“He practices the right way. Those guys they interact, they help each other, they spend a lot of time together,” Smart said. “He is very business like. I think a lot of those guys can take a lot from that and hopefully it rubs off on our younger kickers because we are going to have a hole to fill when he leaves.”
Long and Rubright are expected to be the top two contenders to win the starting role next season, but both Bulldogs have been sidelined for nearly a full year. Rubright hasn’t seen action since his senior season at Marist, and Long averaged 38.7 yards per punt in nine games as a freshman.
With a lack of playing time, Nizialek has been active in helping both of the reserves become acclimated to game speed. In addition, Nizialek and special teams analyst Scott Fountain help punters develop an appropriate practice workload.
“They’re both really good punters, and a lot of times you have to figure out how to practice,” Nizialek said. “It’s something that I’ve developed throughout my years. I’m trying to help with that, along with little technique things.”