Georgia coach Kirby Smart intrigued by new kickoff rule

Georgia coach Kirby Smart intrigued by new kickoff rule

April 15th, 2018 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia redshirt junior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship will have to adjust to a new NCAA rule that allows for more fair-catching opportunities.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Georgia Bulldogs scrimmaged Saturday afternoon for the second time this spring, and it was the first conducted inside Sanford Stadium.

It was also Georgia's first practice since the NCAA approved a change Friday to the kickoff rule. Beginning this season, any kickoff between the goal line and the 25-yard line can be fair caught for a touchback, which results in a first-and-10 at the 25.

"We're going to prepare for it," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said Saturday in a news conference. "On the kickoffs we don't think we're going to get to the 25, we'll be better off fair-catching. A lot of it depends on what type of kicker you're facing.

"How it will be used will be interesting, because no kid has ever sat back on the 1-yard line and waved for a fair catch. He's going to have to make that decision now."

The NCAA adopted the change to help player safety, and Smart said he's in favor of implementing such measures.

"We don't practice full-speed kickoffs live ever," he said. "It's dangerous. You've got guys running 40 yards into each other. We don't ever do that."

When asked if the new NCAA rule could minimize the value of a good kicker, Smart didn't disagree.

"If your kicker kicks a 4.4 (-second) hang time to the 5-yard line, that's a huge weapon," he said, "because you couldn't fair-catch it before."

Smart called Saturday's scrimmage "good and spirited," adding that nobody got hurt. He said it was a balanced afternoon, with the defense having one of its better performances at stopping the run and the offense doing better than usual in third-down periods.

Senior safety Jarvis Wilson missed the scrimmage because of a foot sprain, while sophomore running back D'Andre Swift was limited due to a groin injury.

The Bulldogs will practice Tuesday and Thursday before Saturday's G-Day game. Georgia's first G-Day under Smart two years ago drew an estimated 93,000, and last year's crowd was announced at 66,133.

"Our guys have to get used to playing in that kind of atmosphere," he said.

Rushing judgment

Smart became irritated in his news conference after it was reported that senior inside linebacker Natrez Patrick, who was suspended twice last season for marijuana-related incidents, was not on the field during the portion of practice that was open to the media. He explained that Patrick was attending a funeral and showed up 12 minutes after the media left.

When asked whether Patrick would play in G-Day or the opener against Austin Peay, Smart again bristled.

"Natrez is working as hard as he can to do everything right and do everything we ask," he said. "We'll worry about that when the time comes. Right now, we're worried about practice on Tuesday. Why are we worried about that other stuff?

"What's important right now is Natrez's growth and development to where he becomes a better person."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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