- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
Seventy-seven days remain until Georgia kicks off its season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 1. In the days counting down to the opener, DawgNation will profile, with our “Around the Hedges in 80 Days” series, a Bulldogs player we expect to make an impact. We will review each player’s career thus far and project his long-term potential as we progress through our alphabetical list, from center David Andrews to receiver Rantavious Wooten.
77. Collin Barber
6-2, 191 pounds
Fall forecast: Nothing is guaranteed yet, but Georgia’s coaching staff recruited Barber to be the Bulldogs’ starting punter for the next four years. He just arrived on campus last week, so he still must prove he deserves the job over incumbent walk-ons like Adam Erickson -- who completed spring practice as the starting punter -- and Scott Eichler.
Whoever wins the job, special teams -- and kick coverage in particular -- will be one of the biggest areas of emphasis during preseason camp and one of the most-watched areas of execution this fall. The Bulldogs return depth and experience at most positions, but could start freshmen at both kicking positions following a 2011 season in which kick coverage was one of their most glaring areas of weakness.
Possible career impact: Barber has big shoes to fill in replacing Drew Butler, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter in 2009 and completed his career with the best punting average in program history. But Barber impressed Georgia’s coaching staff with Butler-like booming punts and impressive hang time when he worked out for them. He could become a game-changer like his predecessor, if he can duplicate those results while facing a heavy punt rush during a close game.