It’s been boom or bust for Georgia on its punt team this year.
Collin Barber ranks second in the SEC at 46.8 yards per punt, but it’s the two punt blocks that opponents have turned into touchdowns that are cause for concern.
“It’s disappointing because as we’ve talked in that unit, we’re letting the rest of the team down,” said assistant coach John Lilly, who oversees the Georgia punting game. “All those guys are fighting too hard in everything they do for us to have a hiccup there and lose a game or get in an overtime game because of it.”
Georgia’s had two punts blocked in five games.
The rest of the other 13 teams in the SEC have had one punt blocked. That was Tennessee against Western Kentucky.
Tennessee blocked Barber’s punt Saturday when Quayvon Hicks missed a block on Jalen Reeves-Maybin in Georgia’s three man “shield” protection.
“There’s a lot more to it then that,” said Lilly, who mentioned injuries have taken away some players on the unit. “There’s a lot of things that woulda, coulda, shoulda happened, but at the end of the day, it’s my job to make sure they do happen.”
Lilly said miscommunication wasn’t an issue on that play, but tight end Arthur Lynch chalked it up to that in a hostile environment.
“We just didn’t communicate in the shield,” Lynch said. “Lucas Redd looked at me and he was like, ‘I had to read your lips.’ You just can’t have those type of setbacks.”
Coach Mark Richt said the good that the punt team has done will keep him from blowing up what they’re doing. Richt said the first punt block of the season against North Texas was a scheme issue about who to block that’s “squared away” and the latest one was simply an execution issue.
The scout team tested the punt unit this week “blasting into that shield,” Richt said.
“We’ve made more impact plays this year on the punt team than we have in the six years I’ve been here,” said Lilly, whose unit was tops in the nation in net punting in 2009 at 41.95. “We’ve forced two turnovers, we got a successful fake and then you give up the big plays and it is disappointing. If you can throw out the two catastrophes, we’re up in the top five in America in net punting.”