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Bulldogs detail kick-blocking success

Dan Jackson saw the look and made the check.

In the second quarter against Missouri last Saturday, he noticed the Tigers lined up in a certain formation. He alerted his teammates, signaling the Bulldogs to go after the kick.

Nolan Smith charged in and blocked the punt. Jackson nearly came up with it in the end zone for a touchdown, but he couldn't corral it. Georgia settled for a safety instead.

That marks the fourth blocked kick of the season for the Bulldogs. Through preparation, strain, and the work of the guy known as "Dirty Dan," Georgia's special teams have become a destructive force.

Georgia defensive back Dan Jackson (47) during the Bulldogs’ game with Arkansas in Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA Sports Communications)
Georgia defensive back Dan Jackson (47) during the Bulldogs’ game with Arkansas in Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA Sports Communications)

Jackson also had a place in Georgia's first and most impactful blocked kick this season. He smothered an Arkansas punt in the first quarter that led to a Zamir White recovery for a touchdown, putting the Bulldogs up 21-0.

Another touchdown against Missouri slipped right through Jackson's fingers. He said he's worked on fumble recovery drills in the days since that play.

"I just want to work a lot harder for that unit, because it’s obviously really important," Jackson said. "Anybody on that unit has a great responsibility. It’s a big deal. I just want to keep working at it."

Georgia's other two blocked kicks came against Kentucky. The Bulldogs blocked a field goal on the final play of the third quarter, and then they stuffed an extra point attempt in the closing seconds.

Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart said "strain" is the key to kick blocks.

"We don’t believe in leaving any stone unturned," Smart said. "Field goal block is an extension of red zone defense. Coach Lanning and Coach Scott do a great job of selling that to our defense that it’s red zone defense. It’s another play on defense; why take it off?"

On punts, Smart mentioned the Bulldogs have seen more rugby-style punts this season. The return opportunities have been fewer and farther between, so, as Smart said, "If you can’t return them, you can try to block them."

While effort is critical, so is preparation. In the case of the Missouri block, Smart and the staff had seen that look on tape from several years ago.

The Bulldogs came up with a plan to check to a punt block if they saw the look again. They walked through it on Saturday morning. When Jackson saw the Tigers line up, he recognized the formation and made the call.

Once again, Georgia's special teams made a game-changing play.

"When it happened, we were all ready," senior corner Ameer Speed said. "(Jackson is) the head honcho of the group at his position, but we’ve been working on that play really all week. When it happened, it was kind of like boom, boom, boom. When he made the call, it was good to have it executed. It went exactly how we wanted it to."