Georgia fans have been a bit sensitive about special teams over the last several years. From Jon Fabris and the bad math of directional kicks, to Blair Walsh forgetting how to kick as a senior only for a pro team to get him right in two seconds, we've had an awful lot of issues with the special teams units.
Yet here we stand, less than two weeks away and fans are being more relaxed than they've been in years when discussing the most overlooked 1/3 of a football game. Freshman and human joystick Isaiah McKenzie is a huge reason for that. The kid is so good, he even has Georgia's all time leading punt returner in Damien Gary seemingly hoping to see his record broken.
But then, this isn't new. Under Richt, Georgia has routinely been excellent at place kicker (Billy Bennett, Brandon Coutu, Blair Walsh, and Marshall Morgan, among others), as well as with their punters (Jonathon Kilgo, Gordon Ely-Kelso, Brian Mimbs, Drew Butler, among others). They've also had some extremely athletic and explosive return options (Gary - and yes, I'm still pissed about that celebration flag, as well as Thomas Flowers, Mikey Henderson, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Smith, Fred Gibson, Todd Gurley, and others). So why has special teams been such an issue?
Well, as you can see in those clips, great return men make guys miss, but rarely do they make a lot of guys miss. And the biggest issue with Georgia on special teams hasn't been kicking the ball, catching the ball, or running the ball (although that has at times been an issue, hi Logan Gray! Hope you've been well). It's been blocking for that guy, or tackling that guy. At times, it's also been blocking so they can even get the ball off, or tackling when they don't get the ball off.
So while we all celebrate the potential of having an honest to goodness return man once again, let's slow down just a bit and remember, someone still has to block for this guy. And he may be looking so good in preseason camp because it's Georgia players trying to tackle him on these returns. Jeremy Pruitt and Mike Ekeler arrived talking a renewed emphasis on special teams, and John Lily helped oversee an adjustment of roles. But we've heard this all before. Thankfully we won't have a Sammy Watkins or Ace Sanders waiting in the first two games to test just how much this area has improved, but Steve Spurrier's love of trickeration needs to keep this team on its toes and will likely give us an earlier look at just how improved things have become here. Because as said, we've always had some good qualities here, but have continually had a fatal flaw (be it Walsh forgetting his timing, a complete lack of trustworthy return men causing a backup QB to handle the job, horribly missed assignments leading to blocked kicks or successful fakes, and general piss poor blocking and tackling on these units). Will 2014 see more of the same with an automatic Morgan, an explosive McKenzie, but a disaster elsewhere that costs this team games?