If there’s one thing that’s been true about Georgia Tech football the last few years, it’s that special teams are almost always not going to be great.
The one exception to that was this past season with kicker Gavin Stewart. Stewart, who I wrote about during the Impact Players series, had a phenomenal season last year, scoring 12 of his 13 field goals and 13 of his 14 PATs. It’s difficult to ask for much more than that. And even then, Stewart still brought it as a kickoff specialist, sending more than half of his kicks back for a touchback.
Georgia Tech will also have another option at kicker in Aidan Birr. Birr played well in the spring game, nailing his one field goal attempt for 34 yards.
That’s generally where the positives end for special teams. David Shanahan had glimpses of excellence as the team’s punter last season. He finished the season averaging 43.5 yards per punt but was maddeningly inconsistent. He has the leg to boom it over 60 yards, but he struggled with hangtime and precision.
Those struggles bled over into punt coverage, resulting in historically bad numbers.
Georgia Tech netted 31.17 yards-per-punt last year -- the worst mark in FBS. In fact, in the playoff era, only 2017 Arizona was worse among P5 schools.— ️♈️ (@ADavidHaleJoint) July 18, 2023
The bright side here is that it can’t possibly get any worse (he said hesitantly). New ST coach Ricky Brumfield will hopefully be able to help straighten this group out. In some of his past stints, he has been able to have an immediate impact with coverage groups, so the hope is that he’ll be able to do the same here.
The big question here is who will return kicks and punts for the Yellow Jackets this season. Last year, Hassan Hall and Nate McCollum handled those duties, respectively. Malik Rutherford was the listed back-up for them on last year’s depth chart, but since he is Tech’s most seasoned receiver, I would be cautious about putting him back there.
Aside from Rutherford, I truly have no idea who else could be in contention for this spot, but I’m curious to see how it plays out.
What are you expecting out of the special teams units this year?