Georgia kicker Jamie Lindley is soaking in every moment of what is his fifth, final and what he calls his most exciting season in red and black.
Since arriving on campus in 2008, Lindley has had to take the back seat to another guy who went on to have a successful career in Athens — former Bulldog Blair Walsh.
Lindley witnessed Walsh kick his way to the NFL while picking up the Georgia and Southeastern Conference scoring record en route. And though he learned much from Walsh, Lindley saw playing time only in 2008. That year he recorded an onside kick against Alabama in the infamous ‘Black Out’ game and had another kickoff against South Carolina. Other than that, his contributions have been limited solely to G-Day games.
But that’s changing this year. Lindley has kicked off 16 times thus far, all but two of which were returned from within the 5-yard line. Missouri returned a pair from the 15.
His performance hasn’t gone unnoticed. Coach Mark Richt said he’s always seen promise in the Savannah native, but he was particularly pleased when Lindley booted a kickoff through the endzone against Buffalo.
“Jamie Lindley, he had the last kick, and he drove it right out of the end zone,” Richt said earlier this month. “He impressed us and I wouldn’t count Jamie out for having an opportunity to kick somewhere along the way.”
Lindley said the Buffalo game catapulted his confidence to another level. And though Richt confirmed that freshman Marshall Morgan will kick the bulk of Georgia’s field goals and point-after attempts, Lindley said he believes he will continue to earn more kickoff attempts.
“As the season has progressed, I’ve been getting more and more every game,” he said. “Each game I’ve kicked at least four kickoffs except for the first (against Buffalo). That’s going from three years of not playing at all or playing a little bit to getting in every game. That’s pretty big for me, so I’m happy with it.
Lindley hasn’t won the kickoff role outright yet, though. The Bulldogs have been somewhat sporadic with each player’s duties, but Lindley said that coaches have given Morgan the first two kicks before allowing Lindley to take over.
“I think that after that it’s kind of a performance-based tradeoff,” Lindley said. “As long as I’m doing well, I’ll continue kicking. Maybe they’re just still trying to figure out what they want or what works best for our scheme while at the same time giving each of us reps.”
Morgan said he hopes to secure both roles by season’s end but recognizes that Lindley can bring more experience to the table.
“I like to do them both and wouldn’t want to split them up,” he said earlier this month. “But Jamie is really good. If that’s what they do, then that’s up to the coaches.”
What’s new at Georgia this year is the strategy behind choosing the kickers for each game. For the past four years, Walsh was the established starter each week, even during a rough senior season. The 2012 campaign has brought about not just weekly competition, but daily. And Lindley confirmed that he has no idea yet about what his role will be today against Tennessee.
“Nobody has won the job outright, so each week we’re competing against each other,” Lindley said. “Every single day at practice, we have the mindset that it’s a game and we’ve got to kick as good as we can to show them that’s what we can do in the games.
“Maybe me not playing for so many years, I really have a drive that wants to get on the field. I try to talk to the coaches as much as I can and ask ‘Who’s playing this week?’ and I think that shows I have a lot of passion for the game. They know that I want to play and that I’ve worked hard and want me to be rewarded.”