McKenzie "Gaining Confidence"

ATHENS - Only one player this season on the FBS level has taken it the distance on punt and kickoff returns more than Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie.

Isaiah McKenzie was named Monday as the SEC special teams player of the week.

McKenzie this season has scored three touchdowns on special teams returns, two on punts and one on kickoffs.

That trails only Utah’s Kaelin Clay (three punt return touchdowns, one kickoff) with four, according to NCAA statistics. Missouri’s Marcus Murphy (two kickoff, one punt) also has three.

Clay and Murphy are both seniors. McKenzie is a 5-foot-8, 164-pound freshman who should be providing Georgia with big-play potential for the next few years.

“He’s gaining confidence,” coach Mark Richt said. “He really has come a long, long way in his ability to field the ball. Those punts especially, he started out with a little different technique that he could get away with in high school, kind of catching it over his head sometimes like some guys do on kickoffs. You just can’t do that with guys breathing down your neck at the collegiate level with these high punts that they get. …If we can get him to secure the ball well, he’s going to add a lot more electricity over the years.”

Richt said the kickoff team did “an unbelievable job of creating space,” for McKenzie who went untouched on his 90-yard score Saturday on the opening play of Georgia’s 63-31 win at Kentucky.

On his 59-yard punt return for touchdown, “we gave him enough space and he made a couple of guys miss,” Richt said. “That’s what you need a guy to do. If you’re going to be good at returning punts especially, you’ve got to have a guy who can make people miss out there in space and he did a good job of that.”

McKenzie, from Miami, called punt return “a mental return. They pinned me in the corner so I had to bring it back to the middle and they made some great blocks.”

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