Under former coach Jon Fabris, Georgia routinely employed a directional kicking philosophy in which the kicker aims his kickoffs to a specific spot on the field. In the past two years, however, Walsh had trouble keeping those kickoffs in bounds and Georgia ranked 117th in the nation last season, allowing nearly 26 yards per return on kickoffs.
This spring, Fabris is gone, and new coach Warren Belin has taken the restraints off of Walsh and will let him boot a few more long ones. Walsh led the SEC with 17 touchbacks last year.
“It’s not like it was here the past two years directional-wise,” Walsh said. “It’s a lot more use of my talent I would say. I was fine doing what they wanted me to do. I’m a team player, and I can go along with it. But it’s a lot more use of my talent, and I’m happy about it. I don’t feel like there’s a restraint on me anymore. Without giving too much away, it’s different.”
Outside linebacker Justin Houston dripped sweat and staggered to do an interview in front of a camera following practice. Safety Jakar Hamilton said he was holding back vomit. Nick Williams doubted he’d be able to eat when he got home because he was too tired.
The reason for such post-practice anguish was a grueling bit of discipline done by the team before they left the field Thursday. A rash of penalties during practice meant the entire team had to roll 200 yards – up the field and back – before wrapping up the hottest day of practice so far this spring.
Williams said the rolling may actually have been a bit better than being forced to run, but by the looks of his teammates, they hardly caught a break. But Williams wasn’t complaining. He said he understands the need for the punishment.
“It was high energy (at practice), but we just had a lot of penalties,” he said. “That’s something we’ve got to fix. We were a penalized team last year, so that’s something we’re working on. And hopefully this year it won’t be a burden on why we may or may not win games.”