Punting forward: Collin Barber optimistic after spring practice

Collin Barber was Georgia’s top punter last season until Adam Erickson overtook him down the stretch.

Punting forward: Collin Barber optimistic after spring practice
Marc Weiszer

“I let it get to me a little bit,” Barber said. “I’ve never been one to ride the bench.”

The rising junior who was recruited to Georgia on scholarship was competing again for the job this spring with Erickson, the senior walk-on out of Clarke Central High.

So how did it play out during the 15 practices heading into the summer?

“I would say they’re going to be co-No. 1 right now,” said John Lilly, Georgia’s co-special teams coordinator who oversees the punt team. “And that’s not a knock against either one. It’s a good thing that they make the decision hard because I think they’re both really quality guys.”

Georgia’s punting was a trouble spot last year when the Bulldogs had two punts blocked and another high snap against Vanderbilt led to a touchdown after Barber fell on it at the Georgia 13.

The Bulldogs actually ranked fourth in the Southeastern Conference and 20th nationally in net punting with a 39.2 yard average.

Barber, from Cartersville, averaged 44.1 yards per punt last season, but he was replaced after averaging 38.2 yards on four punts against Auburn on Nov. 16, including one for 23 yards.

“I lose my job and it kind of kicked me in the butt to say, `Hey, I need to get back working. I can’t be comfortable where I’m at,’” Barber said. “There’s always room to get better.”

Erickson averaged 40.5 yards per punt last season and 33.4 on five punts in the G-Day game.

Barber’s G-Day average was 42.5 on two punts on a day where there was no punt rush and no returns.

“I think both guys have had good moments, just like they did in the games,” Lilly said. “I think both of them are going to continue to compete as we go into this.”

Barber said he lost his job after eventually losing distance on his kicks weeks after he sustained a concussion when he chased down a blocked punt at Tennessee on Oct. 3.

“The dude (Geraldo Orta) just knocked the mess out of me,” Barber said. “Head hurting and everything. Going to work out, you could barely focus because your head’s throbbing and stuff. After that happened, I was just comfortable where I was and stopped working.”

The concussion curtailed his practice availability and Erickson eventually took over despite Barber setting a school-record for highest net-punting average at 42.6.

“Adam did a great job,” Barber said. “Now I’ve got to work to get it back.”

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