It’s only natural, I think, in light of the signing of Brandon Bogotay, to take a look back at Georgia’s kicking game from last season, statistically speaking, and try to evaluate what motivated the coaches to add a third scholarship kicker to the team.
First off, it’s fair to say that Georgia’s kickoff game in 2008 was subpar. The Dawgs ranked 94th in kickoff average, at 59.62 ypk, almost nine yards per kick than the national leader, South Carolina. Georgia was 80th in touchbacks, and 92nd in touchback percentage. As for opponents’ return yardage, Georgia was 75th, at 21.66 ypr.
So when you net return yardage from kickoff average, what you’re left with is a typical starting point for Georgia’s opponents at their own 32 yard line. For comparison’s sake, Georgia’s opponents averaged 61.97 ypk and Georgia’s kickoff returners on average gained 21.1 ypr. That works out to a net of almost 41 yards per kickoff, which means the average starting point for Georgia’s offense after a kickoff was somewhere between the 29 and 30 yard lines.
Sure, there’s a net difference there that favored the teams the Dawgs faced off against, but a three yard difference in starting position doesn’t strike me as being as dramatic as I might have thought.
And what about our favorite bugaboo, the out of bounds kickoff? Well, I think you can step up the description of the performance in that category from subpar to truly bad. Georgia ranked second in the country in OOB kickoffs, with nine. But whatever significance you might want to draw from that is lessened by the fact that the worst team nationally in OOB kickoffs last season was Florida. That sure didn’t seem to affect the Gators much, did it? On top of that, Georgia’s opponents were generous themselves in kicking the ball out of play, as they ranked 115th nationally.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that the stats most likely don’t tell the entire story. It’s hard to say how much this affected Walsh’s – and the team’s, by extension – psyche. And you have to wonder how much all of this played into the decline of Walsh’s field goal kicking as the season wore on. We’ll always speculate how differently the Florida game might have gone if Walsh had made all of his FG attempts in the first half. But it’s also not unreasonable to question if Bogotay, even if he’s appreciably better than Walsh at touchbacks and keeping kickoffs in play, will have as much of an impact as we might expect.