UGA Football

Pre-spring preview: Without Marshall Morgan, Georgia has a task in finding new place-kicker

Jason Butt

Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship will be among those competing for the starting job this spring and fall.
Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship will be among those competing for the starting job this spring and fall.

For Kirby Smart, special teams remains the biggest unknown.

On Tuesday, when spring practice begins, Smart will get a first-hand look at what’s available, even though two other players will enter the mix in the fall. But as it pertains to Georgia’s kicking and punting game, there are a lot of questions left to be answered with place-kicker Marshall Morgan, punter Collin Barber and long snapper Nathan Theus graduating.

"Kicker gone, punter gone, long snapper gone," Smart said. "Oh boy. Here we go."

The biggest question is what Georgia will do to replace Morgan. Two players with zero game experience will begin the competition in the spring. Rodrigo Blankenship joined Georgia last fall and redshirted, even though he did compete early on as a kickoff specialist and as a punter.

Blankenship will compete with William Ham, who walked on two years ago before leaving the team last season. Ham re-joined the team in January and was someone former head coach Mark Richt had actually reached out to about helping the team the following season.

Georgia hasn’t gone into a preseason without a kicker on scholarship since the 2000 season, with  Billy Bennett, initially a walk-on, earning one as a freshman that year. No kicker on Georgia’s roster has a scholarship and walk-on Mitchell Wasson will join the competition this fall.

At punter, Georgia could go with Brice Ramsey to handle first-team duties during the spring, even with Ramsey competing for the quarterback job. But incoming freshman Marshall Long will likely have every opportunity to take the job this fall, given Smart extended a scholarship offer to him.

Long snapper duties will likely go to rising senior Trent Frix, the younger brother of former Georgia long snapper Ty Frix. John Courson and Hudson Reynolds are also long snappers on the roster.

Kick returner and punt returner should both be fairly familiar for the Bulldogs. Isaiah McKenzie stands to be the top option to return punts and Reggie Davis very well could be the No. 1 kick returner again. With a new coaching staff, and a special teams coordinator in Shane Beamer, McKenzie could wind up as the frontrunner for both roles. McKenzie is an electric athlete who already has five return touchdowns in his career – a record he shares with former Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin.

Freshman receiver Riley Ridley is another player who could wind up in Georgia’s return game plans. Ridley has been working with Georgia’s specialists on a voluntary basis to practice returning punts.

Georgia seems set with the return game. At punter, Georgia can go with Ramsey if needed but may prefer Long when it’s all said and done, so that Ramsey focuses all of his time on being a quarterback.

Kicker remains the big position to figure out now that practice is set to start in just a few days.

"We’ll find that out in the spring," Smart said. "We’re going to try to get some kids in here whether it’s by way of transfer or by way of walk-on. We’re going to try to get the best kickers we can to try to make that a competitive environment and improve the kicking game and essentially find a guy that can be the field goal kicker for us."