Collin Barber was Georgia‚Äôs top punter last season until Adam Erickson overtook him down the stretch.
‚ÄúI let it get to me a little bit,‚Äù Barber said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve never been one to ride the bench.‚Äù
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?
‚ÄúI would say they‚Äôre going to be co-No. 1 right now,‚Äù said John Lilly, Georgia‚Äôs co-special teams coordinator who oversees the punt team. ‚ÄúAnd that‚Äôs not a knock against either one. It‚Äôs a good thing that they make the decision hard because I think they‚Äôre both really quality guys.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúI lose my job and it kind of kicked me in the butt to say, `Hey, I need to get back working. I can‚Äôt be comfortable where I‚Äôm at,‚Äô‚Äù Barber said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs always room to get better.‚Äù
Erickson averaged 40.5 yards per punt last season and 33.4 on five punts in the G-Day game.
Barber‚Äôs G-Day average was 42.5 on two punts on a day where there was no punt rush and no returns.
‚ÄúI think both guys have had good moments, just like they did in the games,‚Äù Lilly said. ‚ÄúI think both of them are going to continue to compete as we go into this.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúThe dude (Geraldo Orta) just knocked the mess out of me,‚Äù Barber said. ‚ÄúHead hurting and everything. Going to work out, you could barely focus because your head‚Äôs throbbing and stuff. After that happened, I was just comfortable where I was and stopped working.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúAdam did a great job,‚Äù Barber said. ‚ÄúNow I‚Äôve got to work to get it back.‚Äù