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Bucs offer more insight into why they picked a punter in the fourth round

Jake Camarda’s background as a Bulldog, and baseball player, led the Bucs to select him.
Georgia senior Jake Camarda, punting during the Senior Bowl in February, finished as the Bulldogs' career leader in punting average (45.78  yards per attempt). The Bucs drafted him in the fourth round Saturday.
Georgia senior Jake Camarda, punting during the Senior Bowl in February, finished as the Bulldogs' career leader in punting average (45.78 yards per attempt). The Bucs drafted him in the fourth round Saturday. [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]
Published May 3|Updated May 3

TAMPA — Because their recent history of drafting specialists is well documented, and well disparaged, the Bucs went far beyond rudimentary research before spending a fourth-round pick on a punter Saturday.

Not only did they study Jake Camarda’s tape, they studied his ticker. And his temperament. And his talents beyond hang time.

That intel led a franchise that selected two kickers in the previous six drafts (neither of whom lasted more than a season in Tampa Bay) to risk further fan ridicule Saturday by using the 133rd overall pick on Georgia’s punter and kickoff specialist.

Insanity? More like insight, Bucs special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong suggested.

“I like some of his intangibles,” Armstrong told reporters Tuesday morning. “I’ve always judged guys by what have they done in other sports.”

A 23-year-old Bulldogs senior, Camarda evolved into an Under Armour All-American at Norcross (Ga.) High and became the Bulldogs’ career leader in punting average (45.78), as well as a first-team All-SEC pick in 2021. Of his 102 kickoffs last season, 71 went for touchbacks and 16 others resulted in a fair catch. He averaged 44.6 yards on five punts in the national title game.

But what really sold Armstrong and the Bucs brass was the fact Camarda — one of four punters drafted over the weekend — played baseball in a previous life. And recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.56 seconds at the NFL scouting combine, which bested several running backs and receivers.

“He goes to the combine, he competes,” Bucs vice-president of player personnel John Spytek said. “Those guys don’t have to run the 40, but he goes out and runs it in 4.5. He shows you the kind of athlete he is and you can see that when he kicks.”

The fact Camarda doesn’t necessarily like to be stereotyped as a specialist also worked in his favor.

“I always like to think of myself as someone who can be an athlete and can play with other guys,” Camarda said Saturday.

So how do those traits translate to punting? Armstrong explains.

“For example, (former Bucs kicker and Falcons Pro Bowler) Matt Bryant was a really good catcher, was a baseball player,” he said. “So he had some extra stuff to him, so he’s a tougher kid than most kickers.

“I did my research on (former Falcons punter) Matt Bosher before we drafted him in Atlanta, and Matt Bosher was getting in fistfights in the locker room at the University of Miami — with the linebackers. Not with the specialists, with the linebackers.

“You see what I’m saying? So there’s something to (Camarda). He’s got some toughness, he’s a hell of an athlete, great hands, so it allows him to become a holder. He directional punts already, he can place the ball so he’s putting the ball outside the numbers; that’s the way you’re going to punt in this league.”

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If he doesn’t, well, Camarda also has proven receptive — and undaunted — by hard coaching.

“I know (Georgia coach) Kirby (Smart), I was with Kirby at Miami under (Nick) Saban, and he’s been coached,” Armstrong said. “The guy has next to no expression when he does have a bad play, and you love that about him. He’s not droop-dogging and walking around.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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