Belin's New Direction for Kickoffs

Belin's New Direction for Kickoffs

ATHENS – For most of the past two years, Georgia fans have cringed and crossed their fingers with each kickoff. This season, Warren Belin aims to change all that.

The Bulldogs' new linebackers coach and kickoff coordinator isn't giving away any trade secrets just yet, but he said he's made special teams a priority this spring, and he's planning to tailor his philosophy on kickoffs to highlight the strengths of the players he has to work with.

"Each week, things are going to change as I look at film and see what the returns we're facing – those returns may dictate what we do on game day," Belin said. "So for me to come in as the coach in charge of the kickoff team, I'm just going to use the basic fundamentals and take advantage of our kickers, and use the speed that we have to cover the kicks."

Sounds simple enough, but for fans frustrated by two years of brutal kick coverage – Georgia ranked 117th nationally in kickoff coverage and lost to LSU due in large part to a botched fourth-quarter kickoff – that simplicity is music to their ears.

Gone will be the philosophy of directional kicking. Belin plans to use kicker Blair Walsh's strong leg to his advantage. And gone will be the plan to play mostly walk-ons and underused reserves on kick coverage. Belin, a former special teams coordinator at Vanderbilt, wants the best players on the field at all times – including offensive and defensive starters when possible.

"I have a philosophy … of using a guy that does that particular drill or that particular scheme the best, whether he's a starter or a back up or a young man who's shown he can develop as a walk-on," Belin said. "If he's a guy that can cover and avoid blocks and go make tackles, we need to find a spot for him. I'd love to use all the starters we can, but if those starters aren't ready to fit that position, I'll use the next guy who does it the best scheme-wise."

Have a nice Tripp

If there's one constant in Kiante Tripp's football career, it's change. So while his teammates on Georgia's defense have been busy adjusting to life in Todd Grantham's new 3-4 scheme, it's business as usual for Tripp, who spends virtually every spring learning something completely new.

The difference this time, he said, is that this new-look defense seems to be perfectly tailored to fit his skill set.

"Being 290 and being an athlete at the same time, the 3-4 is good because I can use my athleticism in the inside and use my size and power for the run," Tripp said. "I like the defense because you don't know what's going to happen, it confuses the offense, and we're doing damage out there."

Battle tested

A year ago, Bacarri Rambo was struggling just to earn playing time. Now, he's embracing the role of veteran leader among Georgia's safeties.

Rambo finished last season with 25 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups, mostly in reserve duty, but he learned a lot along the way from starters Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans.

Although Rambo hasn't officially locked up a starting job now that Jones and Evans have moved on, he's spent virtually all of spring practice working with the No. 1 unit, and he's taken the opportunity to try to provide the same mentorship he enjoyed last year for the group of young safeties working their way up the depth chart this season.

"Last year when I was playing, Reshad and Bryan helped me out," Rambo said. "It was my first season, and I didn't know stuff like they knew. Since they taught me, I feel like I can help those other guys out on the field and be a great leader to those guys."

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