Bulldogs' kickers could play major role in Tuesday's Capital One Bowl
Posted on Dec 30, 2012 by Murray Poole |
ORLANDO – Two are mere freshmen and the other is a fifth-year senior but just as in every other game this 2012 football season, Georgia kickers Marshall Morgan, Collin Barber and Jamie Lindley will play major roles in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl matchup between the Bulldogs and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Sure, top-notch performances by the Georgia offense and defense will be paramount in Mark Richt’s 5th-ranked Bulldogs putting the bite on the 21st-ranked Huskers and thereby placing a 12-2 cap on this season but then, this game could also turn on a long-distance Morgan field goal, a booming punt by Barber that pins Nebraska back within its own 10-yard line or, steady kickoffs into the end zone by Lindley that makes the Cornhuskers’ potent offensive team start at its own 25 each time.
Morgan, the 6-3, 201-pound freshman place-kicker out of Fort Lauderdale, has converted 8-of-12 field goal attempts including kicks of 52 yards in the win over Missouri and 50 yards in the triumph over Tennessee. Morgan had some extra-point woes early on but enters the bowl game having been true on 58-of-62 PAT attempts.
“I think it’s been a fairly good freshman season,” said Morgan. “There’s a lot I could work on and get better at and there’s a lot of stuff I can fix but, overall, I’m happy I got to start as a true freshman and I’m going to fix everything I messed up on this year. (Missing the extra points early on) we just kept working on our timing and I kept working with Adam (Erickson) and (Ty) Frix and we got it down finally.
“This game, I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to keep the same mindset and just do the best I can on every single kick and see what the outcome is.”
Barber, the 6-2, 200-pound freshman punter from Cartersville, has averaged 41.6 yards on 57 kicks in his first season in Athens including 18 punts that were downed inside the 20-yard line and a 60-yard boomer against Ole Miss.
“I think I’ve progressed a whole lot from where I started,” Barber offered. “Coming in, I was very nervous, wanting to get the ball off more than anything and I was messing with my drop, rushing myself to get it off. But in the second half of the season I had words from Coach Richt about just how he loves me and regardless of how football goes in my life, he wants to see me mature as a man instead of a player. That just took a lot of weight off of my shoulders and after that, it put me in a stage of comfort and I now just go and do my thing and I guess it showed the last half of the season.”
Lindley, the fifth-year senior out of Savannah, had five kickoffs against Georgia Tech, all going for touchbacks. He booted the ball out of the end zone three times each in the wins over Missouri, Florida Atlantic and Auburn and had two touchbacks against both Ole Miss and Georgia Southern and also notched touchbacks kicking off against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Most certainly, Lindley would have enjoyed more opportunities to kick field goals but he realized prior to the start of this season most of those duties would fall on the right foot of Morgan.
“Well, at the beginning of the year or even leading up to the year during camp and everything I knew I was going to have a chance to kick off,” said Lindley. “I knew we (he and Morgan) were going to compete as well, and I’m glad they’ve rewarded me for what I’ve done in practice because you know, about two weeks leading up to the first game, I found my rhythm and I found a groove and I was hitting almost every ball out of the end zone. And so a lot of games they let Morgan start off with the first kick because they wanted him to have confidence with field goals and stuff like that … that’s going to be their guy next year and years to come.
“So I’m glad they give me most everything after that,” Lindley said. “Everybody wants to play, I’ve been here five years now and I’ve basically put four years of work in to get just one year, and so every kick is really important to me. I take pride in the fact I’ve hit a good number of touchbacks, I think it’s probably close to a 50 percent rate but, overall, I’m fairly proud of myself but I’m not really an individual guy. I’m about the team.”
The three Georgia kickers are pretty much alone on their own island in the Bulldogs’ daily practices. They’re away from the offensive and defensive units simply focusing on bettering their technique, timing and strength when it comes to kicking the football.
“At practice, we’re kind of by ourselves and we kind of feed off each other,” related Morgan. “I’ve always been a hard worker and always will be. We’ll go over there to the other field and we’ll get some work in and we don’t take days off, really.”
“It’s all concentration,” noted Barber. “Being a punter, it’s all about your drop. You can have the strongest leg in the league but if your drop is not precise and dead on, that ball might go 35 yards. It’s just concentration on that. Marshall hitting the field goal, taking the right steps, hitting the ball right. Ty snapping, I mean it’s a whole bunch of concentration and focusing what you’ve got to do to get it done.”
Barber said he takes full note of the opposing team’s punter in the pre-game warmup.
“I’ve very competitive when it comes to that,” he said. “Back in high school I used to stand beside the other punter and compete against him to let him know what I can do. And even now if I see a punter warming up at home games I’m gonna go stand by him and punt. I’m going to let him know what I can do. Like Cody Mandell at Alabama, I tried to get beside him and show him up but that dude, he can bomb but I’ve got some years on him.”
“I’d say it’s a combination of focusing on little things and repetition in practice but at the same time and equally important is not kicking too much,” said Lindley. “Kickoffs wear your body down way more than any other type of kicking and in my opinion you shouldn’t do kickoffs on any consecutive days and when you do do them, you shouldn’t do more than 10 in one day. There’s been times I’ve kicked too much before games and there’s been times I’ve kicked too much in practice leading up to the week and you’re sore and don’t kick as well in the games. So that’s been the most important thing for me. Kicking off is going out there and swinging your leg at the ball. There’s not the one thing you really focus on but you’ve just got to learn to be prepared for everything the best you can.”
Individual exploits aside, Lindley, Morgan and Barber are all team men and what they desperately want is for the Bulldogs to win this final game Tuesday and send the Georgia seniors out on a victorious note.“That last game (32-28 loss to Alabama) was crushing and I just hope we can finish well, finish strong and be one of only three teams in Georgia history with 12 wins,” declared Lindley. “I can’t say so much (about Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State last year) because I wasn’t one of those seniors but I can imagine how bad it would be to go out with a loss in your bowl game. Losing your last two games, I’m sure it would be an awful thing for a team’s seniors and it would probably be even worse for our class because we’ve had such a great year.
“We didn’t win the SEC championship but losing this game would downplay a lot of what we’ve done and I don’t think we’re going to let that happen,” he added. “These guys are ready, I’m ready and I’m confident we’re going to go out there and get the job done. Of course, I’m sure Nebraska is going to be motivated, too. They’re a great group of guys. We did some stuff working with special needs kids this morning (at Disney World) and I talked to a lot of their guys. They’re great guys and I’m sure they’re glad to be here. It’s going to be a good game. It’s going to come down to who wants it more and I know these seniors want it bad. We’ve been focused for every game, I know we slipped up against South Carolina but I’d still like to say we were focused then and we had a good mindset and we believed at the beginning of the game, and I know we feel the same way now so, hopefully, we’ll get the job done.”
“I’m looking forward to this game,” Barber said. “It’s the first bowl game I’ve played here at Georgia and I hope there’s more to come. I’m just going to give it all I’ve got and, God willing, I’ll have a great game and end on a good note.
“I’ve gotten really close to Ty Frix,” Barber said. “He’s helped me through the year being my long snapper and we’ve connected really good and I’d love to see him walk off that field Tuesday with a win under his belt, knowing that he’s leaving Georgia with a great season and a last win. I’m glad he had the great season that he had and I just want him and all the seniors to have a great time and just ball out and give the glory to God and hopefully it will turn out in our favor.”
“I just feel like for our seniors, we have to win this,” echoed Morgan. “If I was a senior I wouldn’t want to leave on a loss. So, yeah, I think we need to win this to keep the momentum going for next year.”
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