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Saturday, April 27, 2013
UGA ST player to watch: Marshall Morgan

By David Ching

Marshall Morgan
Georgia coach Mark Richt seems to have more faith in kicker Marshall Morgan (13) for the 2013 season after putting him through the paces this spring.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Kicking in the SEC as a true freshman is rarely a smooth ride -- and Marshall Morgan can attest.

Performing as a place-kicker in a packed SEC stadium versus the far smaller audiences at the average high school football stadium simply requires an adjustment period, and some players never make an adequate transition.

Blair Walsh made it after an up-and-down freshman season at Georgia, and now Morgan will look to do the same. He converted just eight of his 14 field goal tries last season, and 63 of 67 extra points, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

Georgia rarely put the game on Morgan’s shoulders last season, although a 50-yard, game-tying field goal against Tennessee at the halftime buzzer helped turn that game back in Georgia’s favor. But he likely must become more dependable as his career progresses. If the Bulldogs are to defend their SEC East title this season, there’s a good chance that Morgan will need to make some key kicks in close games to keep the Bulldogs in contention.

2012 review: Morgan’s freshman season was a roller coaster, packed with multiple PATs banked off the uprights, a few wildly inaccurate field goal attempts, as well as huge makes from 50-plus against Missouri and Tennessee. Morgan finally got past his PAT struggles and hit all of his attempts in the last seven games.

2013 preview: After senior Jamie Lindley handled two-thirds of the kickoffs last season, it appears Morgan might be adding that job in 2013. Morgan does not appear to be in jeopardy of losing place-kicking duties, so he doesn’t face overwhelming pressure. The coaches let Adam Erickson, Patrick Beless and Thomas Pritchard kick field goals and PATs in the G-Day game, however, so Morgan could face competition from a walk-on if he struggles.

Spring prospectus: Georgia’s coaches put Morgan in some tough spots from which to kick during the Bulldogs’ spring scrimmages, so Mark Richt didn’t seem to mind when Morgan’s field goal percentages weren’t particularly high. Richt seemed to believe that Morgan was kicking more consistently during those practices, and Morgan wrapped the spring by hitting from 32 yards in his only field goal try at G-Day.

Career potential: Morgan has a huge leg and seems to possess the short memory necessary to become a solid kicker. His 2012 season was fairly typical for a freshman, but he was nowhere near accurate enough to be considered a reliable performer. If he puts it all together, he has the physical ability to rank among the SEC’s top kickers, but the jury is still out at this point.