Colquitt return good for Volunteers
Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2008 3:30 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Britton Colquitt has gone through the Georgia game a thousand times in his head.
The Tennessee punter had plenty of time to think about Saturday’s game as he completed his five-game suspension for a February DUI arrest.
“In the past couple of weeks, some of the guys I don’t even talk to that much were like, ‘Are you back next week? When are you back?’” said Colquitt, a senior.
The Vols (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) couldn’t be much more desperate for his return.
Tennessee ranks 115th out of 119 teams nationally in net punting at just over 29 net yards per punt.
Georgia (4-1, 1-1) is third in punt returns nationally — first in the SEC — with an average 21.69 return yards per punt. The Bulldogs’ Prince Miller returned an Alabama punt 92 yards for a touchdown.
Sophomore Chad Cunningham filled in for Colquitt in his absence and averaged 39.5 yards per punt with a long of 57 yards. Two of his punts were blocked by UCLA and Northern Illinois and another was returned for a touchdown by Florida’s Brandon James.
Coach Phillip Fulmer did not blame Cunningham for Tennessee’s struggles in the kicking game, but put the responsibility squarely on Colquitt.
“Britton being back can make a difference in the game,” Fulmer said. “I hope he’s learned a heck of a lesson because our team’s paid a pretty big price for his inappropriate behavior.”
Colquitt, a member of Tennessee’s “first family of fourth down,” has averaged 42.4 yards in his career. That ranks him fourth on Tennessee’s career list behind cousin Jimmy Colquitt (43.9), brother Dustin Colquitt (42.6) and father Craig Colquitt (42.5).
He earned SEC special team player of the week recognition last season after averaging 42 yards per punt against Georgia and nailing two touchbacks on kickoffs. The Bulldogs’ average starting field position was their own 21.
He’s expected to handle kickoffs Saturday as well.
“Colquitt certainly was their starter for a reason,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Colquitt decided against turning pro after his junior season, but has risked his shot to play in the NFL like his other family members as he’s struggled with alcohol.
He was suspended as a freshman in 2004 after multiple alcohol-related charges. He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after hitting a parked car and leaving the scene in the wee hours of Feb. 17.
Fulmer not only benched him for five games but also took away his scholarship.
“If it makes a point that helps him in life not to do silly, stupid things, then it was well worth it,” Fulmer said.
Colquitt practiced with the team in the offseason and has been working on knocking the rust off his leg in recent weeks.
He opted for a new view of games while serving his suspension, watching them on television rather than sitting on the sidelines or up in the stands. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts.
As he watched James run back Cunningham’s punt to put Florida up by 17 points en route to a 30-6 win, Colquitt looked around his living room to make sure no one was looking at him.
It helped put in perspective just what was at stake in his life.
“What I’ve really learned, just how to take advantage of your opportunity and not take it for granted,” Colquitt said. “I’ve taken a lot of my football possibilities and a lot of my athleticism for granted, gone out there and kinda been put here.”