We’ve talked a good bit in this space over the past week about high profile UGA football players choosing to stay in Athens for another season or leave for greener pastures. But there’s one Bulldog who may be just as important as those guys who will in all likelihood return for a couple of more seasons in red and black.
This is all great but I’m not relaxing until NFL Draft-eligible redshirt sophomore Jack “Hot Pod” Podlesny announces he’s returning.— Dawg Sports (@dawgsports) January 5, 2021
Sure Bulldog fans have celebrated redshirt sophomore kicker Jack Podlesny’s Peach Bowl-winning field goal against Cincinnati. As well they should, because hitting a 50+ yard kick in the final ten seconds to beat a top ten opponent is a big deal.
But what’s been less heralded is the overall season Hot Pod had. Consider this: Podlesny had not kicked in an actual college football game prior to the 2020 season. He then hit all 38 of his extra points and 13 of 16 field goal attempts. The St. Simons striker also nailed every field goal attempt inside of 30 yards, and 5 of 7 from 40 yards or more. Perhaps most amazing is that he was perfect (3 of 3) from 50 yards out or further. A missed 43 yarder in the 4th quarter against Mizzou was his only missed kick in the last five games of the season.
Compare that to Rodrigo Blankenship’s first season as the Dawgs’ starter, his redshirt freshman 2016 season. Blankenship was also perfect on extra points (Georgia actually hasn’t missed an extra point or had one blocked since 2014, the longest streak in college football). But Hot Rod was 14 of 18 on field goals, missing 4 of his 11 attempts from outside 30 yards (he was a perfect 7 of 7 from inside that range).
While comparing a guy who’s been in the program for three years with a guy who had been there for two isn’t a perfect comparison, it’s noteworthy that Blankenship was only 11 of 16 from outside the 40 in his senior season (though that did involve kicking in some awful weather on a couple of occasions).
In short, Georgia’s new kicker probably should have put the Red and Black in some bad spots this season. Instead Podlesny quietly put up a performance comparable in all statistical respects to his bespectacled predecessor.
With Podlesny and punter Jake Camarda returning for 2021 UGA should field arguably the best kicking unit in the SEC. That’s not as sexy as having six blue chip tailbacks on the roster, or picking up a former five star receiver on the transfer market. But it may have a whole lot more to do with whether Kirby Smart & Co. return to the College Football Playoff. Until later...