It probably won’t be a great surprise to learn that a competition is underway in Georgia’s practices this week to determine who will handle long snaps against Florida on Saturday.
The Bulldogs have had more than a little trouble with that discipline this season. Half of the eight catastrophic special-teams plays that have befallen Georgia this season have occurred somewhere in the exchange between snapper and holder or punter.
The latest came in the previous game, against Vanderbilt, when long snapper Trent Frix sent a snap over the head of punter Collin Barber in the fourth quarter. It led to one of three Commodores touchdowns off special-teams gaffes.
Frix, a walk-on, handled long-snapping duties because snapper Nathan Theus, on a scholarship, sent back a couple of high ones to Barber earlier this season.
So long-snapping has been an area of intense focus during this two-week window Bulldogs have had since losing to Vandy 31-27.
“We had to go back and look at everything they’ve done and analyze some video on them and kind of try to clean up some things and some inconsistencies they were having,” said tight ends coach John Lilly, who oversees Georgia’s punting team. “Then we’re just letting them go compete to see who’s going to be the best guy to play in the game. We’ve got four more days until we play, but we’ll probably lock in on it by Thursday for sure.”
There are other players on the team who have long-snapped in their careers. But Lilly said the competition will remain between Theus and Frix. Both are highly trained specialists who came out of national kicking academies with high national ratings.
“You don’t want to sit there and totally blow something up,” Lilly said. “You don’t want to get into a deal where you’re switching guys every time something goes a little amiss. Even guys like (former snapper) Ty Frix made errors. I remember them, and he remembers them. His just didn’t turn out to be catastrophic in the midst of a game.
“So you don’t want to get into a situation where a guy is mentally scared of screwing up.
Lilly said Theus will remain the snapper on placement kicks.
Of course, Georgia has also struggled in the area of fielding and covering kicks. And it’s all being addressed as the Bulldogs prepare for Florida, one of the SEC’s better return teams.
“We don’t ever make excuses,” said senior Connor Norman, who was elected special-teams captain for Saturday’s game. “Everybody on every special-teams unit has to play better. That’s what we plan to do.”
Surgery for Carter: Georgia’s already-thin inside linebacker corps got thinner Tuesday as Reggie Carter underwent an arthroscopic procedure to determine the severity of a right knee injury he incurred in practice last week. The 6-foot-1, 229-pound freshman has been the Bulldogs’ primary backup at both inside positions this season.
“We don’t know for certain, but we think it’s a cartilage issue,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “We have Tim Kimbrough and Johnny O’Neal. Those are the next guys in line. They’re tough thumpers. They’re really good run-stopping guys, and they’re helping us on special teams. I think they’ll be pretty good.”
Carter had played in all seven games in bit roles and recorded eight tackles. Kimbrough and O’Neal also are freshmen and have appeared in six and three games, respectively.
Etc.: Josh Harvey-Clemons was back on the practice field Tuesday. He remained under non-contact status and rarely was seen going full speed, but worked with the Bulldogs’ other defensive backs on Florida formations and routes. … Wide receivers Jonathan Rumph and Blake Tibbs got a lot of work with the receivers and a lot of attention from position coach Tony Ball. … Defensive lineman Toby Johnson was a new addition to the injury report Tuesday, with an ankle sprain. … Freshman receiver Tramel Terry, who is redshirting, wore No. 83 and played as Florida’s Solomon Patton during scout-team work.