July 30, 2013

Better safe than sorry

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Better safe than sorry.

When it comes to punt returns, Georgia head coach Mark Richt said Monday night that's a route he has no problem traveling down.

"The most important thing after a punt if we're returning a kick is for us to have the ball," Richt said. "A couple of years ago they'd line up to punt two us, fake it, and we had times we fumbled the ball. That was problematic so our main goal was at the end of that play if we force a team to line up in a punt formation the very next down we want to have the ball."

That was Georgia's strategy last fall. How successful was it? It depends on what side of the argument one falls.

For example, the Bulldogs did not fumble a single punt in 2012. Then again, they didn't break one for a touchdown, either. In fact, Georgia ranked 10th in the league in punt return average at just 7.5 yards per game.

So what's in store for 2013?

Last year the Bulldogs used three different players as their main punt returns - Malcolm Mitchell, Rhett McGowan and Damian Swann.

Mitchell returned the most kicks, 11 for 57 yards with a long return of 30, while McGowan was used as the team's "punt safe" returner, returning nine balls for 75 yards. Swann brought back five for 37 yards.

"A state that doesn't show up is a guy lets a ball hit and roll 17 years, but if a guy steps up and catches it and doesn't let it roll 17 years, you gain some field position so there's some hidden yards there so much that we don't really talk about a lot," Richt said. "But if we could just get on some of those punts and just field them we may save ourselves 5, 10 15 yards by not letting the ball hit."

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