January 4, 2012

Morgan can empathize

One day you're a hero, the next day a zero.

When you're a kicker, that's the sort of knowledge you live with every time you take the field.

It's a fact incoming freshman Marshall Morgan already knows about quite well.

The future Bulldog was watching on TV when predecessor Blair Walsh missed a 42-yard field goal in the first overtime that would have given Georgia an Outback Bowl victory over Michigan State.

He watched in anguish as Walsh's kick in the third overtime was blocked, securing the 33-30 victory for the Spartans.

"You definitely feel bad for him (Walsh)," Morgan said Wednesday in an interview with UGASports. "You look on Twitter and Facebook, everybody's saying stuff about him … I just hope he keeps his head high. He's a good kicker. I think he will make it in the NFL."

One day after Walsh's misfortunes, Morgan found himself in a similar position during Tuesday night's Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz.

Although there wasn't quite the drama, as the game didn't make it to overtime, Marshall's 47-yard field goal with 5:30 left was the difference in the West squad's 17-14 victory over the East.

"There weren't any nerves at all," Morgan said. "I was actually surprised at how calm I felt, I just went out and made the kick."

Making clutch kicks is nothing new for the former American-Heritage (Miami, Fla.) star. As a senior, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder converted 10 of 12 field goals, with a longest of 60 yards.

BIGfoot Kicking founder/owner Tim Conrad, Morgan's personal kicking coach, knows a thing or two about the position.

Conrad has sent over 50 specialists to Division 1 schools over the last 11 years, and his company has coached a high school All-American kicker or punter for five consecutive years. His camp, BIGfoot, has become the premier company in training specialists in the state of Florida.

Conrad has seen more than his fair share of top kicking talent over the years, but he feels the Bulldogs have the best he has ever coached.

"I have had 14 straight Division 1 kickers, and Morgan will be the 15th I have put out and signed Division 1. I had Wes Byrum, who kicked at Auburn (in 2010); I had Brett Swenson at Michigan State, who holds every record in the book; and I had the number one kicker in the country last year in Michael Palardy. This kid surpasses all of those guys. He is by far the best guy I have ever worked with," Conrad told UGASports last year. "I have worked with the best of the best, and he is the best kickers I have ever coached. The sky is the limit with Marshall. Georgia is getting someone I really believe will be one of the top kickers in college football as a freshman."

Morgan credits all of his success to Conrad.

"I'm where I'm at because of him," said Morgan, who still works with Conrad twice a week.

Morgan said he continues to be pleased with his kickoffs.

At the Semper Fidelis bowl, kickoffs were made from the 35-yard line - the same as in college and he responded by putting several of his kicks into the end zone for touchbacks.

"The ball was brand new, but I still had touchbacks on three of my kicks," he said. "Most were right at the 1-yard line, or at the goal line."

Morgan said he enjoyed his time out West at the game, sponsored by the United States Marine Corps.

"I've got a brand new respect for the Marines, I can tell you that," Morgan said.

He wasn't the only Bulldog commitment there.

Jenkins County's James Deloach also took part, as did running back Todd Gurley, one of the top targets remaining on the Bulldogs' recruiting board.

"We had a good time," Morgan said. "I met James when I was on my unofficial visit and he was on his official, so we had gotten to hang out before. It was a great time."