ATLANTA-What a difference a year makes for Georgia Tech’s kicking game.
Last season, head coach George O’Leary had no experience returning at either punter or placekicker, but this season the Tech mentor welcomes back steady sophomores Luke Manget (Conyers, Ga.) at placekicker and Dan Dyke (Winter Springs, Fla.) at punter.
“All the specialists are back and that really is a plus,” said O’Leary. “They’re both very consistent, which is what you look for in your kicking game, and I think they’ve added some leg strength over the summer.
“We’ve got to continue to get more work done in the kicking game, but we’re ahead of where we were last year.”
Tech, which opens the season Aug. 27 at 10th-ranked Virginia Tech in the BCA Bowl, also returns long-snapper Alex Tetterton (Duluth, Ga.), while quarterback George Godsey (Tampa, Fla.) and split end Brett Basquin (LaBelle, Fla.) both have experience holding.
Manget made an immediate impact as a true freshman by setting a school record with 86 points by kicking, breaking the mark set by Scott Sisson in Tech’s national championship season of 1990. Manget nailed 11 of 16 field goals and was perfect on all 53 of his extra points. His most memorable moments were a 38-yard game-winning field goal in overtime against Georgia and a 36-yard field goal in the final minute against North Carolina that forced overtime.
Dyke, a walk-on who came to Tech on an academic scholarship, won the punting job last preseason and went on to average 43.8 yards per kick, which would have ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference had he had enough attempts to qualify for the league leaders. Tech’s net of 39.8 yards per punt ranked 12th in nation. Majoring in Electrical Engineering, Dyke was a first-team GTE Academic All-America selection.
The Jackets have excellent depth at punter in sophomore Chris Morehouse (Vernon, Conn.), who led NCAA Division III with a 43.2-yard in 1998 at Albright College before transferring to Tech last fall.
Junior flanker Kelly Campbell (Atlanta, Ga.) and sophomore tailback Joe Burns (Thomasville, Ga.) are likely to return kickoffs. Campbell averaged 26.4 yards on five returns last season, while Burns was used on kickoff returns in 1998 before missing most of last season with a broken ankle.
Last year’s punt return specialist, Marvious Hester (Smyrna, Ga.), also returns after averaging 11.1 yards, but O’Leary is taking a look at some other players, including true freshman Jonathan Smith (Argyle, Ga.).
“I’m still looking at new people to see if they can do it under pressure,” said O’Leary. “We’ll start to look them in live situations, which hasn’t been the case yet.”