- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Georgia’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska, we will review the season for a key Bulldogs player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at punter Collin Barber.
No. 32 Collin Barber
57 punts for 2,371 yards, 41.6 avg., 60 long
Role in 2012: Barber arrived on campus during the summer and won the punting job by the time the regular-season opened and did a fine job in his first season as a college player.
The good: Barber and pooch punter Adam Erickson rarely had a huge swath of green space to punt into thanks to Georgia’s offensive efficiency this season. That probably affected their yards-per-punt averages, as most of the time they punted it high to prevent a return or tried to drop it inside the opponent’s 20-yard line to give them poor field position. Both players were effective in that endeavor, with 27 of Barber’s 57 punts resulting in a fair catch and 18 leaving the opponent inside its 20.
The bad: Georgia finished in the middle of the pack in net punting -- 59th nationally at 36.78 yards per punt -- but Barber and Erickson limited opponents’ chances to even attempt a return. Opponents returned only 14 kicks all season for a total of 156 yards -- 70 of which came on South Carolina star Ace Sanders’ return for the only touchdown against Georgia’s punt team this season. Still, the Bulldogs could use a little more distance on the punts in the future in addition to the height.
Crystal ball: Barber is just the second freshman punter to start under Richt (the first was Gordon Ely-Kelso, who averaged 39 yards per punt as a freshman in 2003). Barber’s numbers were OK and figure only to improve over time. He and Erickson definitely helped their coverage team prevent big plays. After the South Carolina game, when Sanders broke the long return, the Bulldogs punted 32 times in seven games, but opponents totaled only 35 punt return yards.