Days to Kickoff: 73
As our 100 Days to Kickoff series rolls on, this week we’ll be taking a look at players you haven’t seen before, but will want to know about going into the 2017 season. All of these players come into the season with little to no experience at the college level, but tons of potential to make an impact on the field this fall for the Yellow Jackets.
K Brenton King | Freshman | 6-0, 167 lbs. | Auburn, GA
P Pressley Harvin III | Freshman | 6-0, 240 lbs. | Alcolu, SC
Legendary NFL coach George Allen once said, “Football is one-third offense, one-third defense, and one-third special teams.” It happens very often that a lot of fans tend to focus more on the offense and defense, and less on special teams. It’s also not just the fans; there are quite a few teams who run without a designated special teams coordinator nowadays. Even Tech’s special teams coordinator isn’t just that (A-backs coach Lamar Owens for those wondering). The crazy thing is, though, what happens with special teams can win or lose a game for you just as easily as what happens with the offense or defense.
Despite having some struggles with our punting situation last year, last year was generally pretty solid. Harrison Butker dominated his senior season, nailing 15 of his 17 field goal attempts and becoming Tech’s all-time leading scorer. He also kicked a booming 74 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks and was ultimately able to turn his up-and-down career into a seventh-round pick by the Carolina Panthers (Kieffer was extra pumped for that). On the punting side of things, Ryan Rodwell had a decent, though not spectacular season averaging 43.1 yards/punt. The biggest thing with him was the consistency, as he had a tendency to shank a few punts here and there. His greatest value though, in my opinion anyway, was his ability as a holder. If Rodwell doesn’t consistently hold the snaps as well as he does, Butker doesn’t become Tech’s all-time leading scorer.
These two guys were vastly important to Georgia Tech’s success as a football team last season, and now they’re both gone. Early on in the recruiting cycle, it looked like we were in one of the most enviable spots possible by bringing in what some considered to be the best kicker AND the best punter available in the cycle. Unfortunately, kicker Joseph Bulovas ultimately spurned us for the Crimson Tide, but the Yellow Jackets were easily able to find another kicker was has quite a bit of talent in Brenton King. Though not has recognized as Bulovas, King is still a pretty good kicker.
In his four high school seasons, King nailed 31 of his 40 field goal tries, with a long of 56 yards. What I was impressed by, however, was out of the 173 kickoffs he had in high school, 128 of them went for touchbacks. That percentage (74 percent) is the exact same as Harrison Butker in his senior season at Tech. Needless to say, if you ask most Tech fans, I think they would find that to be a good comparison.
Now while we haven’t had a punter like Durant Brooks since, well Durant Brooks, we have had some pretty solid punters through the years. Though not always consistent, Ryan Rodwell had a pretty solid senior season and was normally pretty reliable, though there were a few punts that kind of just came off the side of his foot, but his 43.1 yard/punt average speaks for itself in my opinion. With the top punter, Pressley Harvin III coming in, I think we’ll actually see an overall improvement from the punter position. What’s great is that this isn’t a knock on Rodwell at all; I just believe Harvin III has the potential to be that good.
Looking through Harvin III’s high school punting stats on MaxPreps, I notice a few things. First, this guy has an amazing leg. He had punts at least 70 yards in his junior AND senior seasons. Though if you keep looking at the stats, you start to see the issue, and that’s his average, which outside of his senior season is not very good. Now, there are plenty of things that could contribute to that, and having not sat down and watched every single punt he made in high school, I personally can’t speak to what said things are. But what I do know is that this guy knows how to kick the ball far. With a little refinement, we could be seeing one of the best punters to ever play for Tech.
With both of our key specialists being freshmen this year, there’s a pretty good likelihood that there are going to be some growing pains. With kickers and punters, it seems like more often than not, that’s the case (like Roberto Aguayo to the NFL for instance, though Tech may have broken him after this play). If they stay focused and can make the adjustment, though, Tech will be very well off.