This is some quote from Blair Walsh.
“It’s not like it was here the past two years directional-wise,” Walsh said. “It’s a lot more use of my talent I would say. I was fine doing what they wanted me to do. I’m a team player, and I can go along with it. But it’s a lot more use of my talent, and I’m happy about it. I don’t feel like there’s a restraint on me anymore. Without giving too much away, it’s different.”
“It” being Coach Belin’s decision to drop the directional kicking strategy that was the hallmark of Jon Fabris’ tenure as kickoff coverage coach. I like to think I’m a rational human being, so of course I celebrate Belin’s common sense.
But you know what else? I think back to the wasteland that was the second half of Walsh’s 2008 season and I get pissed off. Big time. Walsh missed two field goals out of twelve attempts in the first five games that year. Over the last eight games, he missed six of eleven. Not so coincidently, in those first five games, he managed to kick more balls out-of-bounds than he did for touchbacks. That was an unfortunate trend that would actually accelerate over the remainder of 2008, as Walsh didn’t record a touchback over the last seven games of the season.
Looking back on that through the prism of Walsh’s stellar 2009 season, it’s obvious that Fabris’ insistence on directional kicking took its toll on Walsh’s confidence during his freshman year.
If you’re wondering what happened, former Georgia players A.J. Bryant and Kelin Johnson, now regulars on the “Fifth Quarter Show,” put it all into perspective. Both of them played on special teams for Fabris, and they said that it wouldn’t matter whether the Dogs had a kicker who could put it in the end zone or not; Fabris likes “the challenge” of directional kicks. That’s just Coach Fab, they said, get used to it.
That’s beyond dysfunctional. And it hurt the team. I think back to the first half of the ’08 Florida game and Walsh’s two brutal field goal misses. I’m not saying Georgia wins the game if he makes those, but you have to wonder if the team’s mental state at the half would have been so fragile if the score is 14-9.
Then, of course, there was the whole offseason saga with Brandon Bogotay. Read this post of mine from last August and tell me if Fabris makes a bit of sense with that “Do you change?” garbage.
And as that post indicates, the head guy is not without some of the blame here. He bought into Fabris’ approach wholeheartedly.
“They still have to kick it to a spot, whether they kick it in the end zone or not,” Richt said. “You can’t just spray the ball any old where. You can’t kick with reckless abandon and say, ‘I hope it’s going out of the end zone,’ because if it doesn’t, your cover team has no prayer.”
I wonder if he’s told Belin that.
If there’s anything good that’s come out of this, it’s that we don’t need to worry about Walsh’s mental toughness. He’s the embodiment of Nietzche’s famous quote.
UPDATE: David has more quotes from Walsh here.