Walsh training for 2007 & beyond

ATHENS – It's not like Blair Walsh didn't have choices.

The place-kicker from Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is rated by Scout.com as the nation's premier prep kicker. He was pursued by some of the country's top colleges. Florida, West Virginia, Alabama and Maryland all wanted him, but he didn't visit any of those schools.

He visited Georgia once, on March 3, and made a verbal commitment that day. He didn't take any other officials visits, and he will sign with the Bulldogs in February, he said this week.

"Once you visit Georgia, in my opinion, there is no other place to go," Walsh said. "It was a clear cut choice. Everything about it is great, the family atmosphere, the fact that coaches are there for the players. It's a great vibe I got."

Alabama and Florida didn't give up easily, though.

"They were the ones that were the most relentless," Walsh said. "But you let them know in the nicest way you can that you're committed. Georgia is the place for me."

Walsh will come into school next year and immediately go to the head of the line to replace Brandon Coutu, who is graduating after this season.

"It did factor into my decision," Walsh said. "I wanted to go somewhere I could play."

Academics also was a major factor. Walsh is considering focusing on business or law in college. During his recruiting visit, Georgia coaches set up a meeting between Walsh and a representative of the school's highly regarded Terry College of Business.

"It was a nice thing," he said. "The whole program they have is great. I can't say enough about that."

Walsh said he hopes to improve on every aspect of his game in his last season at Cardinal Gibbons, a private school hoping to advance past the second round of the playoffs, where it's season ended last year.

It may be tough to improve much.

Last year, he had a long field goal of 57 yards, and his coach even let him attempt a 67-yarder.

"I'm very fortunate to have the coach I do," Walsh said. "He lets me kick. He understands the game kicking-wise. Some high school coaches still don't."

Walsh feels comfortable from anywhere inside 60 yards, he said, and wants to hit a 60-yarder before he leaves high school.

"If I do that'd be great, if not that's OK," he said. "I just want to help my team out the most. When they're fourth-and-eight and want to kick a field goal, I want to be the guy who makes it."

Walsh kicks off a one-inch tee in high school but isn't worried about making the switch to kicking off the ground in high school. All summer, he worked on kicking off the ground, particularly when he's playing on college fields, which are much more manicured than high school fields.

Walsh often needs his one-inch tee just to keep from kicking out of divot on high school fields, he said.

Walsh lists Adam Vinatieri, John Kasay and Olindo Mare as the kickers he watches most. And Coutu, of course.

"I definitely look up to (Coutu)," he said.

Next year, he'll be replacing him.

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