November 12, 2008

Special teams concerns?

Just because there were some significant special teams flare-ups during last Saturday's win at Kentucky, head coach Mark Richt said he doesn't believe any extra work is necessary to correct the problems.

"We feel like we spend enough time on them. It hasn't been a year-long issue," Richt said. "This last ballgame was the worst we have done in our special teams as a unit in a long time."

It wasn't pretty.

A third-quarter blocked punt off the foot of Brian Mimbs by the Wildcats set Kentucky up at the 9-yard line. Quarterback Randall Cobb scored on the very next play.

An anomaly? Perhaps it is.

Georgia came into play ranked second in the SEC in net punting, but dropped to fifth after Saturday's game.

"They were on top of me before I realized it," Mimbs said. "But we've got everything fixed. I don't see us having those problems again."

Richt doesn't appear very concerned about the punting or any of the other aspects of Georgia's special teams.

The Bulldogs rank second in the SEC in punt return average at 17.6, but rank eighth in kickoff returns (22.4 yards) and 10th in kickoff coverage. The Bulldogs have also surrendered 1,164 total return yards, the second-most in the conference.

"Overall it hasn't been too bad. We were No. 1 in net punting. Before that last ballgame we were very high in punt return; we're still ranked pretty high in punt return," Richt said. "Our kickoff coverage has been decent, not horrible."

Richt continues to be pleased with placekicker Blair Walsh.

Although the freshman has suffered bouts with inconstancy, his 13 field goals (in 20 attempts) are tied for the second most in the SEC. He's also a perfect 39-for-39 on extra-point attempts.

"Extra points and field goals have been pretty good. We did have the Florida game where we missed the kicks," Richt said. "Overall it's been pretty good."

It's kickoff coverage where the Bulldogs have been hurting the most.

Kentucky racked up well over 200 yards on returns last week, but Richt pointed out that much of the problem there has to do with injuries as many of his key kickoff return and kickoff coverage performers are out for the year with injuries.

"The numbers are thinning out with kids available to run, hit and cover. When (Justin) Fields goes out, it hurts. We've had other guys throughout the year get hurt," Richt said. "You have to grab a guy without as much experience or a guy who is playing a lot of defense."

That's included some of the Bulldogs' key players.

"Rennie Curran, for example, is starting on at least two special teams and playing almost every snap. It's really amazing how well he is playing considering how many reps he has taken," Richt said. "You have to grab your (Dannell) Ellerbe and (Akeem) Dents. We had (Darryl) Gamble, (CJ) Byrd and (Reshad) Jones; those guys are getting a ton of special team reps along with the defensive reps they are taking."

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