From OnlineAthens.com
October 20th, 2016 11:16 AM

Without a game looming on Saturday during its bye week, Georgia drilled down this week in practice to try to turn around parts of its team that have most hurt the Bulldogs so far this season.
“If I had to pick one area, I would say special teams is the biggest area,” coach Kirby Smart said. “The biggest glaring area is special teams for us.”
So the Bulldogs have put in “extra effort” there this week, according to wide receiver Michael Chigbu who is on the punt return and kickoff return units.
Smart “understands special teams hasn’t been one of our greatest strengths in these past seven games and this week we’re really going back to the fundamentals,” Chigbu said. “We’re doing different types of drills to work on different aspects of the special teams that we’re going on that day. He’s really focused on special teams, especially kickoff (coverage).”
Georgia had its best game kicking field goals against Vanderbilt with Rodrigo Blanknenship going 3 of 3, but other aspects of special teams were too much to overcome in the 17-16 upset.
“There’s a score every 100 yards,” Smart said. “We got a 95 (-yard) kickoff return and then 87 yards of punt where balls went over our heads, balls sailed, a guy misses a sack on a punt, those things happen. Reggie Davis steps out on the (3). A lot of those things affected the outcome of that game.”
Smart said different personnel on special teams units--“you change people out”--could help, but indicated that the coaching responsibilities for the special teams units will stay the same.
Tight ends coach Shane Beamer is the special teams coordinator, but Smart describes himself as hands-on with special teams like he is with the defense.
“We’ve got a whole staff of special teams guys,” Smart said. “Every coach is involved in special teams outside of the coordinators.”
He added: “It’s a total approach. It’s not like one guy has one area. I don’t believe in that. It’s more we’re all involved in all of them. … We won’t be retweaking who’s doing what on those teams at all. We’ll be getting better at what we do and looking at some different ideas of coverage patterns and return patterns.”
Georgia ranks 120th nationally in kickoff return coverage at 26.3 per return. The Bulldogs surrendered a 95-yard return to Vanderbilt on the opening kickoff.
“People are just letting it all loose, and the next thing you know things pop up at the back,” said Quincy Mauger, who has worked on kickoff coverage and the punt team. “They’re on scholarship just like we are. At the end of the day, we’ve got to make more plays than they do.”
Among those covering kickoffs Saturday were D’Andre Walker, Malkom Parrish, Chuks Amaechi, Aaron Davis and Reggie Davis.
“When you look at it there’s a lot of good players on there, but we’ve got some better players that we’ll try to put out there,” Smart said.
Georgia ranks 103rd in the nation--last in the SEC--in net punting at 35.67, but Smart is waiting to see freshman Marshall Long translate his practice showing more into games.
“He just hasn’t done as well in the game,” Smart said. “We’re not getting a lot of hang (time) out of him.”
Smart said he’s been “pleasantly surprised” by the kickoff return (21.7, 8th in SEC) and punt return (7.5, 9th SEC) showings.
“The punt return really killed us last week but that was really a unique situation because it wasn’t about even being able to field the punts,” he said. “The punt were sideways, sidewinders, all over the place, sometimes those punts are really hard to field.”
Junior linebacker Reggie Carter views special teams as something that is fixable.
“That’s something we can control as a team,” he said. “We can go out there and play and buy into our coaching staff's philosophy. So as a player I'm just going to go out there and give 100 percent, 110 percent. That's all we can do as players."


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