Getting a kick out of spring

A couple of news reports out of Athens this week got me to thinking about a possible solution to one of Mark Richt’s lingering problems: kickoffs.

Freshman placekicker Blair Walsh’s performance as kickoff man was decidedly less than satisfactory last season. Because he had trouble getting the ball into the end zone, the coaches elected to go with high, short kicks that often gave the other team great field position, especially on the eight times Walsh kicked it out of bounds (including twice in the Tech game). It didn’t help that the Dawgs’ kick coverage in general was pretty awful, part of the generally dismal state of special teams play last year. At season’s end, a frustrated Richt declared he might go as far as Poland to find someone who could boom kickoffs out of the end zone. 

But here we are with spring practice having begun and no new kicker on the roster while Walsh is maintaining he wants to try and continue to do the kickoffs as well as field goals and PATs. Richt is noncommittal and notes that besides the two walk-on backup kickers he currently has, others could join the team in August. 

Which brings me back to the other news item, as UGA this week cut the ribbon on a new club sports complex on South Milledge out by the old Red Barn. The $2.5 million complex features lighted fields for use by club teams like lacrosse, men’s soccer, Ultimate Frisbee and rugby, who previously had to share the intramural fields with the school’s rec teams. It’s a long-overdue gesture on the part of the university for the 1.600 students who represent UGA against other schools in club sports, mostly paying their own way in terms of uniforms, transportation, etc. But even this new complex will be of only limited help, as my grad student son, who played Ultimate Frisbee five years and now is one of the assistant coaches, noted that his team will have very restricted practice time and the fields are a bit small. 

Still, it’s a giant leap from back in November 1966 when my family was among the crowd of a few hundred people standing around the cramped quarters of the old Myers Quadrangle as the then brand-new UGA men’s soccer team took on Georgia Tech in the first modern-day college soccer game in Athens. My brothers and I followed the soccer club faithfully over the next few years as they eventually moved over to the intramural fields, and a player who particularly caught our eye in 1967 was a blond freshman named Peter Rajecki. He quickly became the star of the team.

A year later, as most SEC football teams were starting to replace their old-fashioned straight-ahead placekickers with soccer-style kickers who had a much longer range for field goals, Vince Dooley looked to the UGA men’s soccer club for help. Rajecki, Dooley’s first soccer-style kicker, wound up handling long field goals for the football team for three seasons. Since that time, the Dawgs have used only soccer-style kickers. 

So, in looking for an answer to his kickoff problems, maybe Richt doesn’t have to go as far as Poland. Perhaps one of those members of the men’s soccer team playing out on South Milledge might have the powerful leg that the Dawgs need to keep their opponents starting play back on the 20-yard line. 

Speaking of kickers, probably Georgia’s greatest, Kevin Butler, is hosting the Subway Kick-for-Cash contest prior to the nationally televised G-Day spring game on April 11, with one fan getting the chance to win $25,000. You can register online for a chance to be selected as the contestant; entrants must be at least 18 years old. Oh, and there’s a chance of doubling your winnings if both the contestant and Butler make the kick!     

Go to georgiadogs.com for more information.

Elsewhere this weekend, the Diamond Dogs are at Foley Field for their first SEC homestand of the season against Mississippi State; the defending national champion Gym Dogs are in Nashville looking to win their eighth SEC championship; and, confounding the expectations of many (including in the AJC newsroom) who didn’t think they’d make it to the NCAA tournament, Andy Landers’ Lady Dogs will host Arizona State at noon Saturday at Gwinnett Arena. 

Go Dogs!

31 comments Add your comment

kauai dawg

March 20th, 2009
11:26 am

Wasn’t there a kicker in the 80’s named Crumley that kicked straight ahead? I love the articles and Bulldog history. Keep up the great work and God bless! Go DAWGS!

Bill King

March 20th, 2009
11:42 am

You’re right. I forgot Crumley kicked straight-ahead. I can’t recall another one since Georgia switched to soccer-style kickers. Anyone?

MA

March 20th, 2009
12:04 pm

Has Ultimate been moved out to the S. Milledge complex? I thought that field by Lake Herrick was supposed to be for them (and lacrosse, but it was called the ultimate field). Heck, wasn’t the water fountain there dedicated to a student that lost their life in a lightning strike?

kauai dawg

March 20th, 2009
1:05 pm

No worries Mr. King, you do an awesome job and I apprecaite your take on the dawgs! Keep up the great work. He was the only one I could remember. The Dawgs have enjoyed great kickers through the years. Levitt, Robinson, Butler, Kasey, Parkman, Coutu, and now Walsh to name a few. That kind of dates my following of the beloved Dawgs!

BugKiller

March 20th, 2009
1:50 pm

Steve Crumley was my freshman Geometry teacher in high school. Really nice guy.

uga_b

March 20th, 2009
1:51 pm

It may be a nice gesture depending. When I played rugby there 5 years ago, we frequently couldn’t use the field because of rain. Nevermind teams had travelled to play us or that we had it scheduled. We ended up spending a lot of our time at Sandy Creek. I hope it’s different here.

One of the players for us walked on and was the backup punter so you never know who is under foot.

Houdawg

March 20th, 2009
4:35 pm

One of the ” straight-ahead ” kickers I remember most is Bobby Etter, in Dooley’s first couple of years. Also remember the shoelace wrapped around the top cleat & tied to back of the leg to keep the toe pointed up (!). Ah ….. the old days ……

deacondog

March 20th, 2009
6:22 pm

Wasn’t Crumley called crummy Crumley? It seems to me that, even with the strong leg of Coutu and kick from from the 35, Richt’s special teams have continually angled kickoffs to the 5-10 yrd line range. Butler said on the 5th quarter show that the different styles between kickoffs and field goals were throwing Walsh’s form out of whack. Something must be done about our kickoff style and coverage.

Cuz

March 20th, 2009
6:25 pm

Rex Robinson was the last to kick off a tee. I thought he kicked straight ahead also, but I was usually hammered by halftime back then. Ah the smell of bourbon in the air in Sanford and the rowdies on the tracks. Glad I was there to see it before it got walled in. The opposing teams used to have to run the guantlet of the tracks. I think I would have rather tried that Polynesian firewalking trick instead.

AltamahaDawg

March 21st, 2009
12:20 am

I’m glad to see somebody conceed that it was our freshman kicker, that had difficulties make it into the endzone. Was starting to think that I was the only fan who doesn’t think the coaches actually wouldn’t want a TB if they could get it. Oh yea, Matt Stinchcolm smirked at the idea as well.

For what its worth, our awful KO coverage team was within a couple of yards of the rest of the SEC. Top to bottom was a very small margin. Depending on which stat, average yards, or net yards per, UGA was actually a better KO coverage team than Alabama or FL or Okl. Incidentally, the best in the nation was ND, and they had only 1 TB all year. So obviously any fool coach doesnt know to just kick it out of the endzone. If there is somebody in Poland that can consistantly do that, my advice would be to go straight to the NFL, where they can do that maybe 1 out of every 6 times.

On the positive, the only SEC PK better than the freshman Walsh last year were 2 seniors, and 2 juniors at what he was intended for, PK. And perfect 50 for 50 PAT. And when he wasn’t kicking it out of bounds, which is clearly just a matter of correcting, he was not that bad. Auburn had the top KO return man, and he did nothing against UGA. Take out the OOB kick (which thier senior did once in the game as well), Walsh did a pretty good job pinning him that day, and a few other days.

The problem is not the strategy, as everyone does the same thing. The problem was that he was 3-5 yards short. It’s already been reported that his leg wore out as the season went on, and he is a few pounds lighter and in much better shape now.

AltamahaDawg

March 21st, 2009
12:49 am

I don’t get Butler’s comments. Obviously KO and PK have different motions. So? Is he suggesting that we needed to have him stand there and take a 2 step KO with the same motion? Or get a running start for FG attempts?

Was Butler saying he shouldnt be the KO guy? OK. And who might have been a better candidate? Obviously nobody was.

Or not have him PK? There were only a few more accurate in FG’s last year than he was. He was perfect in 50 PAT’s too.

Too Easy

March 23rd, 2009
8:37 am

Kim Braswell.

Spike

March 23rd, 2009
10:26 am

Ultimate Frisbee? Oh, please, say it ain’t so!!

murfdawg

March 23rd, 2009
2:33 pm

Bill,
I hope we don’t have to punt this year, but if we do, who is going to be the punter? I have watched Butler for two years and he is absolutely pathetic. Hopefully, CMR will find a walk-on to fill the bill.

Scottdawg

March 23rd, 2009
6:51 pm

I went to church with Steve Crumley in Athens. He’s a fantastic guy and teaches in Gwinnett County. I may be a bit biased, but I think that Deacondawg is being a bit harsh on the crummy comment. Go back and look at the numbers. Steve did a pretty dog gone good job of kicking straight ahead. His name is still listed in the kicking records for the 2008 media guide. He is tied for first, all-time, with a 100% PAT percentage for the season (1986 – 33 for 33), and is 4th in field goal percentage for a season with a 82.35% (1987) over some pretty big names. He was also the annual scoring leader in 1985 with 65 total points. Those numbers don’t look too shabby. The only thing that knocked him out of the starting line up was a guy named John Kasay who’s still in the pros today. Crumley may have been of a dying breed, but he did pretty well for himself. He’s an even nicer guy.

Voice of Reason

March 24th, 2009
9:55 am

The only punting that Butler has done was sky punting so of course he looked horrible. When he is given the chance to punt the ball the way it is normally done, he should be ok.

AltamahaDawg

March 24th, 2009
3:39 pm

“sky punting”, isn’t that an old Pylon tune? Maybe it was Love Tractor.

BigNCDawg

March 24th, 2009
7:30 pm

The golden toe from Cairo was the best non socker style kicker. He played with Bobby Walden who averaged about 48 yards per punt. They were on one of Butts teams.

Bill King

March 26th, 2009
10:07 am

Maybe this is the answer to our kickoff question.

A release out of Athens …

Junior college kicker Brandon Bogotay has signed a letter of intent with the University of Georgia football team according to an announcement Thursday by Bulldog head coach Mark Richt.

Bogotay, a native of San Diego, Calif., competed as a freshman at Grossmont College (El Cajon, Calif.) in 2008 and was named to the Southern Conference’s All-Conference First Team. He finished 15-of-23 on field goals, including a long kick of 52 yards, and was listed at the No. 3 spot on the California Community College Athletic Association’s list for most points scored kicking last season with 72.

“We’re excited to have Brandon joining our 2009 signing class and look forward to him competing on our kickoff, field goal, and extra point teams,” said Richt.

Bogotay, who did not play football while attending Patrick Henry High School, was named his junior college conference’s Special Teams/All-Purpose Player of the Week on Oct. 13, 2008, after connecting on all four of his field goal attempts as well as all three extra points.

The addition of Bogotay gives the Bulldogs 20 signees who are already enrolled at Georgia or who will be arriving in the summer to join their teammates.

RedandBlack

March 26th, 2009
8:13 pm

Was Peterson a straight away kicker as well? Also, what is up with Butler? I saw him kick in high school and he had a lot of leg for place kicking. He was very accurate too.

Never the less, the special teams need to be vastly improved for the 2009 season. Now, it looks like they are being addressed. Go Dogs!!!

superDawg

March 27th, 2009
6:46 pm

All that counts is KICKING BUTT on the score board.Our kicking will be fine.See you at the Dawg nation capital in Athens.GO DAWGS!

Bo Williams

March 28th, 2009
3:23 pm

SEC is missing a lot by not playing lacrosse. This game combines the toughness and movement of both basketball and football. I just witnessed UVA and MD play 7 overtimes. I guess you dont have enough students from MD, VA, NJ and NY. I’m from NC and I love the game. Unlike soccer, there is plenty of scoring.

Cuz

March 29th, 2009
7:10 pm

Guys with clubs running around beating on each other, what’s not to love. Rugby played with a tennis ball and clubs. Only thing better would be full contact golf.

elmo lewis

March 31st, 2009
12:58 pm

The AJC has always seemed to have an anti-Georgia bias. Just a sample of today’s web headlines:

No one has taken a clear lead in the race to replace Knowshon Moreno at tailback.

Another UGA defensive end injured

One of UGA’s top recruits likely to miss season after back surgery

While for Tech:

Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson lands second recruit from Georgia, DB Fred Holton

Wide receiver Melton making strides

Negative vs. positive spin – you bet

BJohnDawg

April 2nd, 2009
8:22 am

Todd Petersen was a straight away kicker at Georgia as well.

Mike Lum

April 2nd, 2009
12:21 pm

Todd Peterson was soccer-style, not straight on. He later kicked for the Seahawks.

After Rex Robinson, Kevin Butler also kicked field goals off the tee/block…including his 59-1/2 yarder to beat Clemson. Still, both were great kickers. Etter later kicked for the Falcons.

Bishopbulldawg

April 2nd, 2009
11:11 pm

Forget about place kickers for a moment..who’s this new BB coach from out west? And how many does this make since Tubby left? And why didn’t Dooley hire Bruce Pearl when he had the chance… oh yeah, I remember…Adams made him hire Harrick. Maybe SOMEBODY should FIRE Adams!

Blindog

April 3rd, 2009
9:54 am

Hey Bishopbulldawg, fine a basketball blogg and shut the hell up!!!

WILL

April 3rd, 2009
9:58 am

Our kicking game was an embarrassment last year. It cost us the Tech game and lets not forget all the shanked punts against the mighty turds. Evertime we lined up to punt I shotgunned a beer so I wouldn’t have to see the result. Which was usually a 15 yarder or a line-drive that Harvin ran back 40 yards. I’m still miffed about that game as you can tell.

markwardisadawg

April 5th, 2009
3:14 pm

Bo don’t know S#*t about Lacrosse. It is physical, I admit. I have a brother in law in Utah that has been playing for years and is being scouted by BYU. I have been to see him play several times and I admit, it looks like a fun game, but it is for preppies. In my opinion, it looks fun to play, but not much for the spectator. This is a discussion about Football, so why did you even comment on this blog?

Special teams is huge. Without a solid Kicker, we would lose half of our scheduled games. Having an opposing team start from the 20 is huge. I think that Walsh is a great field goal kicker, but we need someone else that is solid to handle kickoffs. I know it might not be worth using a scholarship to sign a kicker, but surely there is a intramural soccer player out there at UGA that can kick it to the endzone 80% of the time. FIND HIM MARK RICHT!

Rex Robinson

April 6th, 2009
9:20 am

The NCAA has continually implemented rule changes to negate the improvements kickers have made over the years. THEY(NCAA)DO NOT WANT TOUCHBACKS. The very best kickoff guy in the country in 2008 was no better than 50/50 on touchbacks. Then there was a huge drop off. See NCAA.ORG for stats. Blair Walsh was never given an real opportunity to relax and just kick. Coach Fabris runs kickoff coverage for the team and he is insistent that the kickers employ the directional kick high and into the corner.

The new guy(Bogotay) may be bigger and stronger(maybe) than Blair, but I will bet you a box of Krispee Kremes that IF he wins the job, he will be directionally kicking too before long. Without a wholesale change in philosophy, we are destined to repeat last years coverage debacle.

I hope they are working on how to tackle this spring.

THATS WHAT LOST THE TECH GAME.

RR