Once again we are counting down the Georgia football team's most important players for the upcoming season. A reminder: This is not a ranking of the team's best players, or a prediction on who will be most productive. Rather it's a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.
Now for ...
10. MARSHALL MORGAN
WHY HE’S VITAL: Just imagine how bad Georgia’s special teams would have been last year without Morgan, who made 22 of his 24 field goal attempts, and didn’t miss an extra point. (Patrick Beless, the walk-on who kicked while Morgan was suspended the first two games, was also perfect on every attempt.) The one area where Morgan can improve is his kickoffs, as Georgia’s 21 touchbacks last year was third-least in the SEC last year. Otherwise, the team can’t ask anymore of Morgan this year, and can only hope he comes close to his accuracy of last season. For all the times the Bulldogs were on the bad end of heartbreakers last year, Morgan’s long field goals were also the difference in wins over LSU (a 55-yarder), Tennessee (a 56-yarder), and Florida (a 49-yarder). His two field goals also pushed the Georgia Tech game to overtime.
QUOTABLE: “(Freshman) year when I made a kick I got real excited. (Sophomore) year when I make a kick, it’s like that’s what was supposed to happen, go on with the day,” Morgan said. “After the game it feels good of course to have a bunch of texts from your family and friends, and all that. But I try not to get overly excited when I make a kick.” - Morgan
BEST CASE: Morgan replicates last year, and gets a bit more oompf on his kickoffs. He repeats as a first-team all-SEC pick, and this time makes some all-American lists. Morgan and Blair Walsh’s first two years are eerily similar: Both struggled as freshmen (Morgan was 8-for-15 on field goals and missed three extra points, Walsh was 15-for-23), then had outstanding sophomore seasons (Walsh was 20-for-22). As a junior Walsh kept it going, going 20-of-23. So maybe Morgan can stay hot too.
WORST CASE: The one thing Morgan never endured last year was a slump. He started hot and stayed that way. This year, the test could be whether he misses a couple in a row, and how he responds.
FINAL WORD: When you have the kicking ability of a Walsh or a Morgan, your performance comes down to what’s going on between the ears. It was clear last year that Morgan was more relaxed and comfortable, even after the summer trouble that led to the suspension. It helped that Mark Richt showed complete faith in him, even after Beless’ performance, then it helped more that Morgan didn’t hit any rough spots during the season. If he encounters any as a junior, that becomes the next test: Whether he can quickly end the slump and hit the kicks when his team needs it.