December 23, 2011

Record still in reach

Blair Walsh will be the first one to tell you his senior season didn't go exactly as planned.

After missing just 12 field goals during his first three years, Walsh scuffled with his consistency this fall, converting just 19 of 31 attempts.

It got so bad that at one point head coach Mark Richt at one point started alternating kicks with senior Brandon Bogotay before Walsh regained the starting job.

No, it hasn't been fun, but as the senior gets ready to cap his college career in the upcoming Outback Bowl against 12th-ranked Michigan State, he said he never stopped believing he would somehow succeed.

But even that hasn't been easy.

"At some times you start to question yourself whether you've got the ability to succeed, but then you realize you've been doing it for a long time and you've got to trust yourself, the ability of the people around you to help you through it," Walsh said. "I think I eventually did that."

Statistically, despite his recent lapses, Walsh will have an opportunity come Jan. 2 to etch his name into not only the Georgia record book, but the entire SEC as well.

With five more points, Walsh will pass former Bulldog kicker Billy Bennett to become the leading scorer in school and conference history. Bennett currently holds the mark with 409 points. Walsh has 404.

"It would be awesome but records are meant to be broken, and if I did I'm sure somebody would come along and break that," Walsh said. "It would be nice to go out on top but Billy's record is a pretty highly regarded one around here, so it would be nice to break that."

Should Walsh break Bennett's mark, incoming freshman Marshall Morgan figures to get his chance to top him.

Morgan is one of Georgia's 15 verbal commitments and is currently the top-rated kicker in the state of Florida and to replace Walsh next fall.

But Walsh's career isn't done yet.

"I'm going to use it (the Outback Bowl) as the last sort of step before that whole draft process," he said. "But now I'm really just focused on this being my last game and being there for my team."

Walsh said he's learned a lot while dealing with what's been a trying year.

"You know what it feels like to miss and unfortunately I felt that too much this season. But you also know what it feels like to rebound from bad performances," he said. "I could have been just as well without it, you definitely learn from it and eventually it will help me."

That includes the next level in the NFL.

"I still think I'm the same guy that I was the other three years and I think my body of work speaks for itself and I think I'm one of the more well-rounded kickers coming out of this class," Walsh said. "Hopefully I'll get a shot from some team to play at the next level and play for a long time."

Walsh figures to get his shot.

After the bowl, Walsh will remain in Florida to train with long-time kicking coach Nick Gancitano before what he hopes is a spot in one of the post-season showcase games for seniors, before hopefully garnering an invitation to the NFL Combine.

"It's kind of tough for kickers because you don't really need to go to any place, Combine training or all that stuff so I'll probably go home for a month and a half, get down there for warm weather," Walsh said. "As soon as it gets warm in Athens, come back up here, prep for Pro Day, hopefully the Combine and go from there."