‘New guys’ bring unknown to UGA kicking game

ATHENS – On the eve of Georgia’s football season, a key question about the team centers around two untested freshmen. And no, this does not concern the much-hyped rookie tailbacks.

Today’s question: How will placekicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber, each of them 18 years old and three months removed from high school, fare in roles vacated by two seniors who graduated to the NFL?

The most honest answer probably is the one Georgia coach Mark Richt offered when asked this week if Morgan is ready to kick in front of 92,000 fans Saturday against Buffalo: “I don’t know. I don’t know how ready Marshall is. … I think in time he’s going to do extremely well. What will he do the first game, what will he do his first kick, I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see.”

Then Richt added: “And of course Collin is kind of in the same boat.”

Freshman placekicker Marshall Morgan (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)

Freshman placekicker Marshall Morgan (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)

Morgan, from Fort Lauderdale, is positioned to take over the field-goal and extra-point duties from Blair Walsh, who held both jobs the past four years and now is the Minnesota Vikings’ placekicker. And Barber, from Cartersville, is poised to succeed Drew Butler, Georgia’s punter of the past three seasons and now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The footsteps in which Morgan and Barber follow, as well as the expectations surrounding a No. 6-ranked team, compound the pressure on the freshmen to produce.

“I’m just going to try to zone it all out, to be honest with you,” Barber said. “I’m just going to pretend I’m back home in Cartersville … me, myself and the ball.”

Said Morgan: “We’re the new guys. So everyone is going to judge us and every single kick is being watched.”

Like most kickers, Morgan and Barber began as soccer players.

Morgan started playing soccer at age 6 and discovered a new sport when he rode his skateboard to a football practice in sixth grade.

“The coaches said, ‘Who can kick the ball?’” Morgan recalled. “I told them I could.” He made a 25-yard field goal on his first try, “and ever since then, they made me the kicker.”

In high school, he was credited with a career-long field goal of 59 yards, although he insists it was 60, and was ranked the nation’s No. 5 kicking prospect by espn.com. He committed to Georgia early in the recruiting process after also receiving an offer from Florida State.

Similarly, Barber branched out from soccer after a suggestion from a friend that he try football.

barber

Freshman punter Collin Barber (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)

Barber began kicking in ninth grade, and by 12th grade, he was ranked the nation’s No. 6 punter prospect by 247sports.com. He averaged 45 yards per punt last season for Cartersville and fondly recalls an 80-yard “bomb” in an all-star game.

He caught Richt’s eye during a camp after 11th grade. Richt offered, and Barber accepted, a scholarship on the spot.

Now Barber and Morgan are roommates, living a shared experience.

“Everybody talks about it, you know. ‘Hey, Collin, you’ve got big shoes to fill.’ Marshall, same things,” Barber said. “But I believe you can do anything you set your mind to. … Yeah, it’s probably going to be tough to fill [Butler’s shoes]. But I want to fill them and I want to outgrow them and leave bigger ones.”

Morgan and Barber expressed satisfaction with their preseason performances, although scrimmage results were mixed. Morgan made a 42-yard field goal in one scrimmage and badly missed a 57-yarder in another.

As expected, the freshmen were listed as the No. 1 placekicker and punter on the depth chart released this week. But Richt said non-scholarship players Jamie Lindley (kicker) and Adam Erickson (punter) provided competition during practice and did not rule out giving them a chance in games. On kickoffs, Richt said both Morgan and Lindley have performed “well enough to do it.”

“It’s definitely going to be mind-blowing,” Morgan said of his Sanford Stadium debut. “I may get goosebumps not because I’m nervous but because it’ll be a feeling I’ve never experienced.”

Morgan and Barber follow players who made a mark in the record book. Walsh’s 76 field goals rank third on the UGA career list; he made 55 of 68 attempts in his first three years before slipping to 21 of 35 as a senior. Butler had a career average of 45.4 yards, the UGA record, and won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter in 2009.

UGA players are intrigued about how the freshmen kickers will fare Saturday.

“It’s a little bit different when you go out there and it’s not just your teammates watching,” linebacker Christian Robinson said. “There’s people seeing if you’re going to live up to the hype, and I think they can.”

– Tim Tucker, AJC

MORE GEORGIA FOOTBALL

111 comments Add your comment

The Central Scrutinizer

August 31st, 2012
7:10 am

Good luck guys!

The Central Scrutinizer

August 31st, 2012
7:10 am

Good luck guys!

The Central Scrutinizer

August 31st, 2012
7:12 am

Wow…first and second!

RP

August 31st, 2012
7:37 am

Article about kickers…yawn.

Preacher Dawg

August 31st, 2012
7:42 am

Game Plan….Defense – Bring the WOOD!! Offense – Hunker Down You Hairy DAWG!!!!! Special Teams – Git-R-Done..Finish the drill… Can Hardly Wait…Lovin this TEAM!!!!

Bulldawgman49

August 31st, 2012
7:51 am

Okay guys forget the fact you will be kicking in front of 92,000 rabid BullDawg fans . Just do what you know and everything will take care of its self . And always laces out !!! GO DAwgs!!!

True Dawg

August 31st, 2012
7:57 am

With all the HATERS constantly trolling our blogs and blasting their negativity, well… just makes me proud to be a DAWG!!!

Mark Richt's Goatee

August 31st, 2012
8:05 am

Larry Munson: Do you realize we are sending a true freshman out there to kick ?

hammerhead

August 31st, 2012
8:12 am

Thanks, Zandy – we’re also proud of pathetically jealous fans of other schools who troll our blogs…

TY

August 31st, 2012
8:14 am

Were Walch and Butler not Freshmen when they started kicking for GA. To much about nothing. Richt should at least show a little positive confidence in those two. Instead of saying I do not know. He doesen’t say anthing like that about Marshall and Gurley and others. Why not say something at least like, I know they are going to do well. Is he saying the same thing about this years team. I do not know how they are going to do? Wow.

Roll Tide ROLL!

August 31st, 2012
8:26 am

Tide have great kickers always had. You doggies are way overated.

We will win it al again.

Dave

August 31st, 2012
8:30 am

Let’s just get it on! UGA and fans should stop apologizing for the schedule as well. No one is talking about how bad SoCal’s schedule is or any of the other high and mighty teams ranked highly. You don’t apologize for something you had nothing to do with (scheduling), you TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT! How many of the past national Champions have an asterisk with the phrase “Played the 35th most difficult schedule” or “Played the 72nd most difficult schedule”. All it says is National Champions. It’s not like a school will go out and say “OK, let’s schedule 12 games and I want 8 of them to be ranked in the top 25.” Sometimes it works out that way, but most of the time it doesn’t. So all of the trolls bad mouthing UGA just sit there and keep vomiting your drivel. Whatever our record ends up as, we took the next game on the schedule and tried to win all of them one at a time. Let the chips fall where they may. GO DAWGS!

Dave

August 31st, 2012
8:32 am

And by the way, South Carolina didn’t exactly look like a juggernaut against Vandy last night. I won’t put a lot of stock into how well we play this weekend against Buffalo, but the Mizzou game will tell us a lot about how good of a team we are. Looking forward to every second of every game!

Goldenrod

August 31st, 2012
8:39 am

All the leghumpers on here are going to tell us how great these freshmen are when they know darn well they will collapse against my Jackets in November!

We Will Run This State!

Atlanta Gator

August 31st, 2012
8:53 am

Congratulations to Russ on his “battlefield promotion” to full-time UGA mascot. May he win all of his games except one.

Blue Ridge Dawg

August 31st, 2012
8:55 am

@ RP- – Ummm… pretty sure when its late in the fourth with a tied ball game with SC or FL and we line up for a crucial field goal for a potential win…. There wont be any yawning going on….

LHarding Dawg

August 31st, 2012
8:57 am

Look at it like this, they could’nd do any worse than Walsh did last year. Maybe we should try going for it on forth down more this year.

Goldenrod – Could you bring me some more coffee this morning.

LHarding Dawg

August 31st, 2012
8:58 am

As far as Vandy & Sc. Vandy got robbed!

gomdawg

August 31st, 2012
8:58 am

Zandy, you are one sick human . IT GREAT TO BE A GEORGIA BULLDAWG

D Fence

August 31st, 2012
9:03 am

All you morons on here dawging the dawgs couldnt get your sorry tail into UGA if your daddy, who is likely working for a UGA gard, was on the board of regents. Now get back to work digging your hole.

Paul

August 31st, 2012
9:10 am

Zandy is a tool.

Ringleader

August 31st, 2012
9:14 am

Yep, Vandy was robbed not once, but twice………….No way was Slive going to let Carolina loose.

DAWG

August 31st, 2012
9:15 am

Hey Zandy Dandy you need not focus on Georgia, you need to draw your attention to Auburn. Oh you need to get your facts right about Georgia being the number one party school; we did not come in first.

Dawg258

August 31st, 2012
9:15 am

A bunch of negativity and hating I see. Fact of the matter is we will need them both to be solid if the goals of the players and fans have a chance of coming true this season.
While watching the game last night I realize South Carolina will be a hard game this year, especially traveling to their field. I totally expect the QB to be fully healthy over the next couple weeks with such a cupcake schedule until we meet.

Alabama Fan – I’ve always hear about UGA having a weak schedule; I think Bama’s is pretty weak as well. I give you credit for scheduling what looks to be a good game in Mich, but we all know they are just ranked high and really have limited play makers and not a lot of depth.
Arkansas doesn’t scare anyone neither does Tenn….. so you get LSU and we’ll play the winner for all the marbles.

Also don’t mention kickers between UGA and Bama when a Kicker won the game the last time we met…… 55 yards remember? lol

Zandy Eats Moron burgers

August 31st, 2012
9:17 am

He really does

DawginLex

August 31st, 2012
9:19 am

Someone needs to remind the tide folks that by having us removed from their schedule, it removed the highest ranked team that would visit T-town in 2012.

I-DOG

August 31st, 2012
9:19 am

Wow, South Carolina squeeks by with a missed blatant pass interference call that if called correctly would have put Vandy in South Carolina territory down 4 with about 2 minutes to go and a couple of timeouts.

South Carolina’s defense was not well conditioned and while their DE’s get after the passer, they lose contain and overpursue on running plays.

South Carolina’s offense consists of one play. If you can stop their read option, they basically have nothing else. First games can be deceiving because teams improve so much from week 1 to week 3, but South Carolina looks to have a quite a ways to go.

This is why I was so against playing Boise State last year. Remember, we cancelled the Louiseville game for more $ and more prestige. We had nothing to gain by playing Boise last year and the first game is always a crapshoot. If you are going to play a couple of cupcakes, play one of them in GAME ONE.

We can find out how good we are against Missouri in week 2 after we correct whatever mistakes are inevitably made in game one.

dawgfan

August 31st, 2012
9:23 am

You can count on the kickers playing a big part as long as Mike Bobo is our offensive coordinator. The guy is pretty clueless in the redzone. It would be nice to just pound the rock down people’s throats close to the goal line like great teams do, but Bobo seems to have very little interest in that. It always seems to go something like this. 1st down: Murray bombs it in to the endzone. There’s probably a 20-30% completion rate on this play. 2nd down: Token soft run up the middle “to keep the defense honest” for a 2 yard gain. 3rd down: Murray bombs it in to the endzone. No more than a 5-10% completion rate on this play. 4th down: Field goal.

As for the SC-Vandy game last night, typical SEC officiating. You’ve got a top 10 team against a no name team. No flag on a painfully blatant pass interference. You think Bama doesn’t get that call in its own stadium? You’re dreaming. I think its a subconcious thing and not intentional. Those refs read the same newspapers we do. They hear all the hype. They’re human. Certain teams get the benefit of the doubt. That’s for sure.

Paddy

August 31st, 2012
9:31 am

Zandy……..you sound like a 4h grade little girl. It’s football season and nobody cares what you think about UGA

FamilyDawg

August 31st, 2012
9:34 am

I can’t wait to see our running backs operate in tomorrow’s game. Talent-wise, they are so far above Buffalo that they should put on quite a show. And even though Samuel is a DGD let’s face it, he trips up on blades of grass. He’s straight ahead, pure power, but when untouched he can go the distance….if he’s untouched. Gurly is like Moreno with more speed. Marshall is a scat back with scary, greased lightening speed. Malcolm is a tough, four yards and staining for the fifth yard type of back. All three are needed badley. Can’t wait for the show. RUN THE DAMN BALL!

Buckeye

August 31st, 2012
9:37 am

Who assigns a kicker #13?

The freshmen will jump up and bite you in the hind end the worst possible moment?

kingdaddy

August 31st, 2012
9:39 am

Kickers will be a moot point if we stick it in the “endzone”. We may go for it more on 4th and short and Aaron Murray can punt if he needs to. That might nit be a bad play. Go for it on 4 th and short, if they load up the box, let Murray supprise kick it. Everybody uses trick plays against us, unleash some brain power sometimes, and make them pay…

bubba4dawgs

August 31st, 2012
9:50 am

Hey Zandy, would you kindly go suck an egg and get off this blog!!!!

Paddy

August 31st, 2012
9:51 am

dawgfan…..chill out. Bad mouthing the ref’s after one game! WOW And to make matters worse, its about 2 teams you don’t even care about. The season could not start fast enough for you. Hope the wife locked up the .357 mag. For those of you just joining us, this type of behavior goes unnoticed in Alabama. Here in Georgia we try and help our fellow Dawg fans whenever we detect the dreaded ‘Red Elephant’ disease amongest us. As you all have witnessed, it went untreated for years over there. Sadly, there is not cure when neglected since the ’60’s.

AltamahaDawg

August 31st, 2012
9:52 am

What game was it that it always went something like that dawgfan?

bubba4dawgs

August 31st, 2012
9:55 am

Don’t you just love these other school “wannabe’s” getting on this blog just to downgrade UGA! Evidently, they don’t have a blog for their school. Perhaps there’s just not enough print about them! In short, they’re simply known as idiots and jealous of this blog.

kingdaddy

August 31st, 2012
9:55 am

Loved the Vandy/Chicken game last night?!(except for the cheating or poor officiating and the fact that Vandy lost!) Vandy almost killed Latty on a couple of plays, knocking his helmet off and laying him out. When we play the Chickens, Ogletree needs to shadow Shaw to keep him from those easy runs that killed Vandy. Third and long, Shaw drops back to pass, lanes opened up and Shaw made way too many easy first downs with his feet. Yes he got hammered, but he won the game by sustaining drives. CTG must not let him out of the pocket with an open field or it will be a long game for the Dawgs. Good job Vandy, you were officially (pardon the pun), robbed…We should not take Vandy lightly…

Big Crimson 75

August 31st, 2012
9:56 am

Kyle Carter is a friggin tool.
This kid is bad news.
In no way do I blame uga for this kids antics.
He was a prick winning the little league WS & I got news for y’all, not much changed in HS!!
Taunting crowds, dis-respecting opponents.
WTF is going on in Columbus, Ga??
If I were y’all, I believe I’d give the territory back to the Barn.
Again — in no way is this part of uga’s problem — this kid is a menace.

AltamahaDawg

August 31st, 2012
10:05 am

Georgia, Or Bobo, as you seem to think is the team, scored 82% of the time in the red zone last year. 62% TD’s. Both near the top of the SEC. 20% of its trips, it converted FGs. down near the bottom of the SEC. IN fact, that is the only stats that georgia was NOT in near the top of the SEC in red zone #s. Red zone attempts, red zone scores, red zone TD’s scored, all near the top of the league.

So yea……just wondering what games you were watching that it always went something like that….because you are a lot more “clueless” in that accessment than Coach Bobo was in the reality of what actually happened.

Russell Hall

August 31st, 2012
10:05 am

Nice sentiment, Atlanta Gator. Can’t ask for more than that.

Go Dawgs!

Nick

August 31st, 2012
10:07 am

Badly missed a 57 yarder?
And they didn’t take him out and shoot him?

kingdaddy

August 31st, 2012
10:09 am

I think S.C. should drop in the polls. An unranked Vandy could and should have “upset” the Chickens last night and anyone who watched the game, knows this. Either drop the Squabs out of the top 10 , or give Vandy their due! Can’t have it both ways. Vandy was close to an upset, period. Either Vandy is better than expected, or the Chickens aren’t as good as everyone thinks they are. I say Vandy is balling…

AltamahaDawg

August 31st, 2012
10:11 am

Alabama was in the red zone 3 more times than Georgia, and scored 2 less TD’s. Do you think their fans are complaining “It would be nice to just pound the rock down people’s throats close to the goal line like great teams do, but (McElwain) seems to have very little interest in that.” ?

kingdaddy

August 31st, 2012
10:16 am

Atlanta Gator
You reminded me of the joke about the guy who chopped the tail off a gator and took him into the bar as a seeing-eye Dawg. Thanks for the “Russ” comment and don’t take it personal when we make it two in a row in Jville my friend…

kingdaddy

August 31st, 2012
10:18 am

Clint Eastwood still rocks. Very nice sense of humor…

Nothing Could Be Finer

August 31st, 2012
10:19 am

Glad we got Vandy out of the way.

Dogs fans better hope they can run the ball.

Vandy can easily beat a team like Georgia this year.

AltamahaDawg

August 31st, 2012
10:20 am

The thing I noticed about the Vandy/Sc game, is that they simply did not have an affective pass rush that was pressuring Shaw, so he had a lot of time to scramble, and find some lanes. Maybe they had to make a decision to defend against Lattimore, or maybe they just didn’t have the studs on the D-line. SC will not be able to get away with that all year.

dawgfan

August 31st, 2012
10:20 am

“What game was it that it always went something like that dawgfan?”

Pretty much every big game that we play in. Our last game against Michigan State comes to mind since that was the most recent. You must not have watched that game. We kept getting stoned every time we were in the opponent’s territory because Michigan State was absolutely freaking OWNING our offensive line. Why don’t you take out all the big stats against the New Mexico States and the Georgia Techs and then get back with me on those flashy stats smart guy. How’d we do in the red zone against Boise State last year? LSU? Michigan State? I know we can score on Coastal Carolina. Everybody knows that. We’re trying to win an SEC Championship though, not a Big South championship.

I guess when we drop 50+ on Buffalo tomorrow Bobo should get a raise. He’s obviously doing such a wonderful job with the offense.

What a joke. Continue to make excuses and we will continue to be sitting at home while the big boy’s win championships. It’d be one thing if I was making all these complaints while we were winning championships, but that obviously isn’t the case is it? We haven’t come anywhere close. We scored 10 POINTS in the SECCG last year and you act like I’m some big moron for questioning the wisdom of Mike Bobo’s brilliant offense. Please put down the crack pipe and get back to reality.

Thank you very much and have a wondeful day.

I dropped my fried twinkie

August 31st, 2012
10:21 am

“New guys’ bring unknown to UGA….”
If they are like other UGa Athletes I bet the UNKNOWN is a GUN. lol

KingDaddy….I like Clint but some of that was weird.

WDE

August 31st, 2012
10:21 am

Best of luck young men and Go Dogs !