If you’re looking for a back-handed epitaph for Blair Walsh’s stint at Georgia, this’ll do:
“His problem will be consistency on field goals,” one coach said. “Good form and technique. It’s just his accuracy.” Kicked off much better at the combine than for the Bulldogs. “He’s got a great, I mean great leg,” another coach said. “He had a 4.64 hang time on a kickoff at the combine. That’s almost unheard of. Every now and then you’ll get a guy with a great leg who might get a 4.4. And they’re using brand-new NFL balls. That was incredibly impressive.” [Emphasis added.]
Anything in there come as a surprise to you?
Walsh of the great leg never finished higher than third in the conference in kickoff average. And while he did manage to lead the SEC in touchbacks and touchback percentage once, his standings in his three other seasons would be best described as being merely better than average.
Assuming there was a deliberate strategy behind that – and at least for some of that time, I do believe there was – it’s not as if it paid off with superior results in kickoff coverage year after year. Georgia did finish second in the conference in 2010 (Belin’s one year coaching the kickoff team), but had nothing better to show than two last place finishes and an eighth-place result in Walsh’s three other seasons. All told, it’s hardly the stuff of legends.
There’s no question he had something of a mental meltdown last season kicking field goals. But you have to wonder how much of the inconsistency (or pig-headedness, if you prefer) of the coaching staff’s approach to how he was deployed throughout his career contributed to that. And that’s a shame, because Walsh leaves Athens as the most talented kicker ever to play for Richt.
I’ve got this feeling that four or five years down the road, there will be plenty of folks looking at Walsh’s pro career wondering what happened during his time in Athens. I hope it’s a question that Richt is asking himself now. The next kicker deserves better.