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Monday, November 23, 2009

Practice Notes: Walsh, Butler Earn National Recognition

The only thing better for Blair Walsh and Drew Butler than wrapping up their seasons with national awards would be doing it together.

They’ll get a chance to do just that next month, as Butler was named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the nation’s top punter, and Walsh earned a nod as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award for the country’s best kicker.

“If that’s what happens, that would be awesome,” said Butler, who is leading the nation in punting average in his first year as a starter for Georgia. “(Walsh) is definitely worthy of a trophy like that, and if that’s in the cards, I think it shows we’ve both done what we were asked to do on a consistent basis.”

Butler is averaging 48.8 yards on 50 punts this season and has been one of the Bulldogs’ most consistent performers all season. He’ll join Michigan senior Zoltan Mesko and Florida junior Chas Henry in Orlando on Dec. 10 for the award presentation.

Walsh will be there with Butler, competing against Alabama’s Leigh Tiffin and UCLA’s Kai Forbath for top kicker honors.

The sophomore has connected on 16 of 17 field goal attempts this season and leads the SEC in touchbacks, but he admits he was a but surprised to be named a finalist.

“I knew it was going to be close because I’m a big stat follower,” Walsh said. “I was right on the edge and it was nice to get it. There was a lot of hard work put into that.”


Brandon Boykin set the Georgia record for kick returns in a season and is closing in on 1,000 return yards this year, but he was on the sideline when Branden Smith fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half against Kentucky last week. While Boykin said he cringed at the play, he isn’t blaming his teammate for the loss.

“It was tough just seeing that momentum shift, but we were still in it,” Boykin said. “We still had a chance to win. It didn’t really hurt us as much as people probably think it did.”

Smith wouldn’t have been in the game at all had Boykin not injured his hip on a kick return in the first half. Boykin said a player’s facemask hit him on his hip bone, causing significant soreness, but X-rays revealed no serious damange.

“There’s nothing really wrong besides a big bruise, so we’re just trying to get it treated and get me ready for Tech,” Boykin said.

The sophomore cornerback returned to special teams duty for the remainder of the game, compiling 103 yards on four returns, but only saw a few more plays on defense in the second half.

While the injury has resulted in a bruise all the way down his leg, Boykin said he’s feeling better and plans to be on the field this week against Georgia Tech.

“I expect to play, I’ll be back,” he said. “I feel like it’s getting better to the point where I can run, and by Saturday, I’ll be able to run full speed.”


Darryl Gamble abandoned his normal No. 50 jersey last week, instead donning No. 18 in honor of his cousin, injured safety Bacarri Rambo. But it wasn’t entirely his decision.

“Rambo’s my cousin, so he asked me to and I decided to do it for him. It seemed like the right thing to do at the moment,” Gamble said.

As it turned out, it might not have been a bit of a jinxed jersey for Gamble. One week after Rambo suffered a concussion late in the fourth quarter against Auburn wearing his No. 18, Gamble saw his playing time dip with the jersey on his back, too. That even caught Rambo’s attention.

“I talked to him after the game and he said he didn’t see me as much because of the way rotations were going I didn’t get as much playing time as I usually do,” Gamble said.

But Gamble isn’t complaining. He’s just hopeful Rambo will be back on the field this week, and glad he had a chance to honor his teammate.

“It was representing South Georgia,” Gamble said, “and if I got injured, I’m pretty sure he would have worn my number.”


Rantavious Wooten wasn’t expecting the ball to come his way when he saw Kentucky’s defensive alignment. Trevard Lindley was deep, and Wooten figured quarterback Joe Cox would find another receiver.

Instead, Cox lofted a perfect pass downfield, and Wooten ran his route perfectly, darting in front of Kentucky’s cornerback at the last instant to haul in the pass before falling backward into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown reception – the first of his career.

“I didn’t know what to think,” Wooten said of the celebration that ensued. “There was too much going on and people were slapping me in the side of the head and stuff. I was just happy we got a touchdown.”

The freshman receiver caught another touchdown on a 43-yard pass from Cox in the second half, too, giving Georgia a 14-point lead at the time. That lead evaporated down the stretch, however, and while Wooten said he has gotten dozens of calls and texts from people congratulating him on his big game, he’s had difficulty celebrating.

“It was wonderful at the time when we were winning the game,” Wooten said. “It was wonderful, it felt great, up until we started losing the game and things got out of sync. Then the feeling about losing took over the feeling of feeling great about my first two touchdown passes.”


Receiver A.J. Green remains questionable for Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, head coach Mark Richt said, but Wooten reported that the Bulldogs’ star receiver is in much better spirits this week after suffering a shoulder sprain against Auburn.

“I don’t know as far as when he’s going to play, but I know he’s feeling pretty good, he told me,” Wooten said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congrats to our kickers. It's nice for them to be recognized.