Athens — Georgia coach Mark Richt, who famously said late last season that he might have to look as far as Poland for a kickoff specialist, found one in southern California.
The Bulldogs on Thursday signed junior college kicker Brandon Bogotay — a San Diego native who played last season at Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif. — to a letter of intent.
Richt said Bogotay will battle incumbent Blair Walsh for all kicking duties — field goals, extra points and kickoffs. But it was Bogotay’s strong kickoffs — and Walsh’s deficiency in that area last season — that persuaded Georgia to spend another scholarship on a kicker.
“My goal as head coach is to make sure we’re better than we were a year ago, and we feel like [Bogotay] gives us a chance to do that,” Richt said. “If nothing else, [the competition] will sharpen the skills of Blair.”
Walsh said he welcomes the challenge and intends to hold on to his jobs.
“It’s an opportunity to compete and get better; that’s how I view it right now,” Walsh said. “Competition makes everybody better.
“I still expect in my mind to be the starter on both kickoffs and field goals, and that’s how I’m going to treat it.”
Eight of Walsh’s 75 kickoffs went out of bounds last season, including two in the loss to Georgia Tech, and only four of the 75 went for touchbacks.
After the Tech game, Richt said: “We might have to go to Poland or something to find a guy who can kick it out of the end zone.” Richt added that day that he was “very comfortable” with Walsh on field goals and extra points.
On Thursday, Richt called the kickoff job “a very critical position,” noting its impact on opponents’ field position.
“Whether it’s [Bogotay] doing it or Blair doing it, if we do it better to the point where our defense starts drives on the 20- to 28-yard line, we’ll be better than a year ago on defense,” Richt said.
Both Walsh and Bogotay have three years of eligibility remaining.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Bogotay, a long-time soccer player, did not take up football until midway through his senior season in high school. In his one year of junior college, he made 15 of 23 field goals, the longest from 52 yards, and produced 20 touchbacks on 52 kickoffs. He came to Georgia’s attention when a highlight film — sent by the kicker himself — arrived unsolicited.
Bogotay weighed scholarship offers from schools almost 5,000 miles apart — Georgia and Hawaii.