ATHENS - Blair Walsh seems to know that his chances of being drafted took a hit because of his senior season. And because he's a kicker, those chances weren't great in the first case.
“You let it go. It’s in the past," Walsh said of last season, when he missed 12 field goals and at one point lost the full-time kicking job. "That was the first part of this process, and this is the second part, and I think right now I’m acing the second part. You gotta continue to get better, it’s nowhere near done. Plenty of workouts coming. You’ve gotta be ready for when a team takes you or signs you, you’ve gotta be ready to go in that camp and succeed.”
During Monday's pro day at UGA, Walsh braved very windy conditions to make 9 of 10 field goal attempts, with a high of 60. The Jacksonville Jaguars sent their special teams coaches, who oversaw the workout.
Walsh finished his career as Georgia's all-time scoring leader, and was named to several All-American and All-SEC teams as a sophomore and junior. He's hoping that helps offset his senior-year struggles, which he still can't quite explain.
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“I think I’ve done well enough in the postseason part of this and the process," he said. "I’ve kicked pretty well in the (NFL) combine and today. I’m hoping somebody takes a shot on me. I think my career speaks for itself, and obviously I didn’t have the year I wanted to have this year, and I’m just hoping a team takes a chance because I know I’ll be ready to work for them and be a contributing role.”
So what do kickers do during the draft process, since they're not being weighed or running the 40? They're still kicking, but doing it under pressure situations. Walsh said teams like to put kicking prospects on the spot, whether it be at the combinee or individual workouts. He thinks that by doing well in those situations, he'll get a spot somewhere.
But he is getting ready for the possibility that he’ll have to bounce around a bit before sticking with a team.
“It’s part of the game. If you’re not ready to commit to a couple years to it, then you’re really a one-and-done type," he said. "But I’m willing to commit years to it. I’m confident I’ll be able to crack into it, but it’s a tough business. I picked a job where there’s 32 jobs. So hopefully I’m one of them.”
As for who replaces Walsh at Georgia, the spot is expected to go to Marshall Morgan, a prospect from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Walsh is from nearby Boca Raton, Fla., so he knows Morgan. His advice: Don’t over-kick, i.e. don't try to do too much to impress people.
“I struggled with that my first year. Don’t over-kick in practice,” Walsh said. “He’s gonna have competition here. There’s a couple of good kickers who are here that are gonna push him to make him earn that job.”
Jamie Lindley, who is Walsh’s roommate, is one of those walk-ons who could push Morgan, according to Walsh.
“But you’ve gotta come in here expecting to have competition,” Walsh said. “I think Marshall’s fully capable of handling it and winning the job.”
The kickoff rules in college football are changing in college football: Kickoffs are now from the 35, and touchbacks will be brought out to the 25. The changes were made with an aim towards safety; since a greater percentage of catastrophic injuries occur on kickoffs, the NCAA is seeking to minimize them.
But Walsh isn't sure the new rules will result in less kickoffs - just higher ones.
"I think teams are gonna go a little bit more for hangtime, I honestly do," Walsh said. "I think if they’ve got a guy that can bang it out consistently they’ll probably do that. But if they’ve got a guy who can sort of do that, they’ll do both. Because at some point you can pin them inside 25 it’ll be nice.”
Kicking from the 30, Walsh had touchbacks on 19 of 65 attempts last season.
Kicking from the 35, Walsh said the aim would be to hang it for about 4.2 seconds, and make them return it to about the 18.