Monday, August 27, 2012

Player Profile: Blair Walsh

Blair Walsh will help improve
a near league worst average opponent
drive start.
Today on Vikings Corner we will wrap up the player profile series by taking a look at Viking's rookie kicker Blair Walsh.

Blair Walsh was drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round from the University of Georgia. Before beginning his career with the Georgia Bulldogs, he played football at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Boca Raton, Florida. Walsh was named a USA Today All-USA first-team selection and received a four-star prospect as the nation’s best kicker, according to expressed Walsh as having the fourth-strongest leg in the prep football. In addition, rated him fifth among the nation’s kicking specialists.

Furthermore, Walsh was selected to The Class AAA Florida Sports Writers Association All-State second-team selection in 2007 and was named to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel All-County first-team. After his continued success, he was invited to play in the 2008 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Walsh made 14 out of 20 field goals, including two from 59 yards and 30 out of 31 extra points as a senior. He also averaged 69 yards per kick-off during his final high school season.

After completion of his high school career, he committed to Georgia and immediately became their placekicker. He continued his successful pattern by going 20-for-22 on field goal attempts and 42-for-42 on PATs. In addition, he kicked the ball 75 times for 4,790 yards (63.9 avg.) with 17 touchbacks on kickoffs. Immediately you could see Walsh's big leg would bring him success after his years in Athens, Georgia.

He continued his success in his sophmore and junior seasons, nearly replicating his statistics from his freshman season. Walsh began to struggle along with a dismal Georgia offense in his senior season. His accuracy dropped to 21-of-35 on FGs and 46-of-46 on PATs.

Many NFL teams questioned why Walsh wasn't as efficent in 2011, but the Vikings had no concerns. Special teams coach Mike Priefer believed the issue was mechanical and could be fixed quickly. From an analysis standpoint, we have to remember the amount of drives, where the Bulldogs offense stalled near the 45 or 50 yard-line, which left Walsh attempting extremely long field goals. Walsh also brings a nice element in the kickoff category, with his excellent leg. The Vikings average kickoff yardage was about 64.8 yards last season. With the average opponent drive start ranking 31st in the league, this can only be a major improvement this season.

The only question mark is whether or not Walsh can make field goals on a consistent basis. Will he miss a 37-yard field goal during a regular season game much like he did in Friday night's game vs. San Diego? This can't happen and won't happen with Walsh's focus he displayed, combated with his ability to kick in practice. In addition, Walsh hasn't had an ample amount of time to gain continuity with Chris Kluwe and Cullen Loeffler. Establishing a comfortable relationship with snapper, holder, and kicker, is key to successful operation. He only will improve as he gains experience and continuity with those he works with.

In training camp, he drilled six field goals from 71+ yards, and attempted from 80 yards, but hit the crossbar. Of course the wind was at his back, but it still shows he has the ability to make kicks in a practice setting. A game situation is different than a practice situation, but it certainly is a positive sign going into regular season play.

Overall, I love the addition of Blair Walsh to the Vikings roster. When I met Blair at Vikings training camp he had a great personality and seemed focused on being successful. I believe Blair Walsh will be a positive acquisition to a team that is looking for players to step up and make an impact.

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