Walsh Steps in as Starter

ATHENS – This experiment has been tried before – it didn't work.

Blair Walsh arrived on campus knowing that nothing stood between him and the starting place kicking job. Maybe that's a good thing; Georgia's most recent try at giving a kicker a scholarship didn't work, however.

It's not that Walsh lacks the pedigree of being a top kicker – the Ft. Lauderdale, FL native was selected as a US Army All-American in 2007, and was a key part of his high school team's strategy from game to game. Scout.com ranked Walsh the number one place kicker in the country.

Walsh has been listed as the starter on the Georgia depth chart virtually since the end of the Sugar Bowl. He says that he will do what he needs to in order to keep the starting job.

The most interested observer, it seems, is Georgia head coach Mark Richt. He said the kicker was the one freshman he was looking forward to seeing the most.

"I've been saying all along that I am very interested to see Blair kick the ball," Richt said before Monday's practice.

Richt may have been trying to throw the rest of the world off by sending Walsh out to practice in a #57 practice jersey – not a traditional kicker's number.

"I can make it one," Walsh said. "I didn't ask for a number, but that's what Coach Richt sent me out there in."

But if Georgia fans are a little skeptical of giving a kicker a scholarship out of high school it's with good reason. In recent memory the only kicker with a scholarship – Andy Bailey – could not beat out walk-on kickers, Billy Bennett and Brandon Coutu – to make a significant kick in his career.

"The coaches have never said anything about that," Walsh said. "I am well aware of it, but I don't think they scholarship me for no reason. They brought me in here to be the kicker, and in my mind I will be."

Now the pressure is on Walsh to deliver in what could be one of the biggest years in Georgia history. The Bulldogs are expected to compete for the SEC and national title. If they win it Walsh likely will have had to make a big kick or two along the way as that's the nature of the usually very close outcomes in the SEC.

"That's something I've been thinking about," Walsh said. "You get yourself up for that sort of thing… 52 yards out with three seconds to go against LSU – to test yourself when that situation happens."

One transition Walsh has made since his high school days is from kicking off a one-inch tee to kicking off the ground. He says he stopped using the tee in January.

"That's when I stopped using them," he said. "I actually feel like I am a better kicker off the ground. For some kickers it's very strange, but I kick a clean ball off the ground."


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