My way, or the highway

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.


Filed under Georgia Football

18 responses to “My way, or the highway

  1. Pingback: Daily Links 02Apr: Leather Helmet Blog

  2. baltimore dawg

    i’m sure walsh spoke those words through clenched teeth. if anyone has a right to complain about coaching the last two years or so, it’s that young man. but his restraint speaks all the more highly of him.


  3. NCT

    Dang. I can’t find an image of that Gahan Wilson cartoon of the guy at the bar with the Superman robot: “He’s programmed to take me home when I start quoting Neitzsche.”


  4. FLdawg

    Sir, you hit the nerve today.

    Yes, there is still a groundswell of discontent in DawgNation brought on by the dozens of bonehead coaching decisions over the last 2 years.

    Your great column today exposes just one facet of our deficient coaching culture.

    Your own choices of language aptly sums up our feelings:

    pissed off. Big time.
    unfortunate trend… accelerate
    took its toll on Walsh’s confidence.
    beyond dysfunctional.
    hurt the team.
    team’s mental state … fragile .
    offseason saga .
    head guy … blame.

    Will the hire of 3 new def. coaches solve and repair all the other coaching blunders?

    You have the “rational…common sense” to praise Walsh for his mental toughness, and rightly so.

    We have great kids on our roster who are committed to our program. Its not the players we are concerned about, its the coaches.

    Our players win games often in spite of our coaching!

    We love CMR. But 2010 could be a make or break year. It’s time to clean up all the problems and field a football team which exemplifies excellence in every phase.

    The University of Georgia is the greatest of institutions. We have unlimited potential in all our sports programs.

    We CAN and MUST compete for championships. NOW. 2010.


    Do not believe the weak girly-men who say ” we can’t, we need a few more years.”

    5 months till kick-off 2010!



    • Macallanlover

      You continually make a strong case for an “ignore poster” feature, and need some balance in your life. It is totally understandable to have some concerns but your posts are borderline obsessive…..correct that, definitely over the line. I don’t know what your issue/agenda is but you need to call Charter. Zero credibility.


      • FLdawg

        Hey Brother,

        Thank you for your kind words.

        I am just a Dawg fan, are you?

        Lighten up, we all have our opinions.

        We love CMR but will say this again:

        When CMR was hired here, all Dawg fans expected similar results as his FSU record:

        National Championships
        Consistent National Prominence.

        Instead of criticizing other UGA fans, please create and post your own thoughts, analysis, input, and expectations.

        Yes we expect excellence in 2010.
        Mediocrity will not be tolerated.

        Only 22 weeks, 154 days till kick-off.

        Glory Glory to Ole’ Georgia,
        and to H&LL with gatech


        • David

          I think what he’s saying is instead of beating us to death with lengthy and inane rambling wrecks of posts, be honest and just come out and say cmr isn’t doing a good enough job for you and you want him gone.


  5. Bulldog Bry



  6. 69Dawg

    I think Coach Belin actually plans on covering the kicks for a change. Of all the crazy stuff that has gone on around this program for the last few years the KO’s and punt coverage (fake punt) was the craziest.


  7. BadMarinara

    CMR’s quote kills me. “you still have to kick it to a spot.”. Heck in Pee Wee’s we knew to run toward the ball. Is it so hard for the kids to figure out left from right and to establish your lane when you see which way the ball goes? Your lane shouldn’t shift more than 10 yards either direction.


  8. FLdawg

    We have all witnessed crazy, insane, stupid, bonehead plays in the kick and spec teams the last few years……Inexplicable plays which are not seen in well coached D-1 teams.

    UGA has always had a tradition of rock solid kick and spec teams (until the last few years)

    I remember one of the greatest UGA spec teams plays which enabled us to upset mighty Texas 10-9 in the 1984 Cotton Bowl. Texas was undefeated and ranked #2.

    News reports:
    “Texas led 9-3 when Georgia recovered a fumbled punt, setting up the winning score when Lastinger ran the option to his right and scampered 17 yards with 3:22 left on the clock.”

    In the final minutes of a losing game, our well coached punt cov team was in the correct seam and position, reacted to the ball, then jumped on the fumble.

    What time is it in Texas?
    10 to 9.
    It will always be 10 to 9 in Texas.

    We will see improvement in our def, spec teams, and kicking. We are on the verge of a breakout year.

    2010 will see a “Return to Glory” for the Red and Black.

    We can do it. You gotta Believe.



  9. thewhiteshark

    I like Belin’s philosophy. As so many have expressed, watching teams run a kickoff back to the 30 or so before you even see a Georgia player in the picture was maddening. My theory (I could be wrong) on that was not we lacked enough speed but that Fabris was teaching them to stay parallel to each other causing the cover guys to be focused on the wrong thing to start with, and forcing the faster guys to slow down. Go down and hit someone.


  10. Kevin

    “liked the challenge”… are you f*cking kidding me?


  11. Julie

    I put the entire blame for the 2009 Kentucky loss on Fabris. While we will never know, I bet he was the first one CMR fired.


  12. When CMR was hired, What did I expect? After 20 years without an SEC title,What did I expect?
    If anyone had told me in 2001 that the Dawgs would be as successful as they have been for the last 9 years, I would have had a large laugh about that.
    CMR has been more successful than any previous Dawg coach & a lot more successful than I expected a Dawg HC to ever be. Now I am excited about the real “potential” for the net 4 years.


    • FLdawg

      I apologize for upsetting everybody, please forgive me.

      Its Good Friday, and I need to pray.

      Go Dawgs!


  13. JC in Powder Springs

    Since the Senator quoted Nietczche, I thought maybe we could use a Nitschke quote:

    “It was the character of the Packers, man. We played for sixty minutes. We let it all hang out. There was no tomorrow for us. We got the adrenaline flowing, and we just let it go, man.”

    Blair, please take Ray’s advise and when kicking off “just let it go, man”.


  14. 10 to 9 in the Cotton Bowl against #2 Texas who thought the Dawgs were not good enough to play in the Cotton Bowl that year. Lastinger did score the winning TD. Lastinger also led the 99 yard scoring drive that beat the Gators 10 to 9 that same year. Thank you for reminding me. Only Bo Jackson & Auburn cost the Dawgs the SEC in 1983. I was there.

    I have said before: I am more excited about the Dawgs now than at any time since 1983. I just hope my excitement is justified.