Nobody expected junior punter Jake Camarda to be Georgia's most meaningful player during last Saturday's 37-10 defeat of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Nobody would be surprised if he was again this weekend when the No. 4 Bulldogs host No. 7 Auburn.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Norcross was brilliant against the Razorbacks, punting seven times for an average of 49.9 yards. Five of his punts left Arkansas with a starting field position at its 9, 10, 7, 1 and 11, with the first four of those kicks occurring in the first quarter when Georgia's offense couldn't get on track.
"Jake has done a tremendous job," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said this week. "He has worked really hard, and that was one of his goals for the year — to pin more people inside the 10. He was able to do that with the help of some really good gunner play."
The runaway choice for Southeastern Conference special teams player of the week put the exclamation point on a stellar afternoon with a 63-yard punt to the Arkansas 11 in the fourth quarter, when the Bulldogs were finally cruising at 34-10. He nearly had a sixth kick inside the 20, but a 54-yarder in the second quarter was downed at the 21.
Camarda had four punts of 50 yards or longer, and his 49.9-yard average ranks second nationally, but he's unsure as to whether that's his best career outing.
"I don't really keep track with stuff like that," he said this week. "I walked off the field just really happy that we got the win, and I'm really happy when we win games. It was good to see that we had some great stuff going on there."
Named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award long before Saturday's opener, Camarda is coming off a sophomore season in which he ranked sixth nationally with a 46.8-yard average. He received the SEC weekly honor after last year's game at Auburn, where he punted 11 times for a whopping 50.7-yard average.
His stout leg could certainly factor into Saturday night's outcome inside Sanford Stadium, especially if the rushing offenses of the two teams don't improve. Auburn managed just 91 yards on 30 carries (3.0 per carry) in last Saturday's 29-13 win over Kentucky, while Georgia netted 121 yards on 42 rushes (2.9).
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn doesn't need reminding of how Camarda and Georgia's punt coverage team impacted last year's 21-14 Bulldogs triumph.
"You watch them on special teams, and they've got real speed," Malzahn said. "They're very talented on special teams, and that's got to come into play. We've got to do a great job with speed and technique and everything that comes with that to try to win the special teams battle."