James Wilhoit has been where Blair Walsh is.
Wilhoit was a four-year starting kicker at Tennessee from 2003-06. As a sophomore he booted a 50-yard field goal with 6 seconds to play to beat Florida 30-28. He was first-team all-SEC as a senior, and he still ranks second on Tennessee’s all-time scoring list.
Now he trains kickers across the Volunteer State. His unique perspective also includes the fact he has a master’s degree in sports psychology.
“I have great respect for Blair Walsh,” Wilhoit told DawgNation. “My opinion going into this season is he was a draftable kicker given what he had shown with field goals and kickoffs, and that he has done it in the SEC. He was one of the most NFL-ready kickers I have seen.”
Walsh’s senior season, though, has gone awry. He has missed 10 of 23 field goal attempts, or twice as many misses as he had in 45 attempts the past two seasons. He missed from 33 and 37 yards against Florida on Saturday.
“Senior year is tough,” Wilhoit said. “I’m sure Blair wanted to have a great season and cement his draft status and help his team. There’s a lot of pressure and distractions senior year. You’re trying to be perfect and impress people.”
Wilhoit said Georgia coach Mark Richt has said all of the right things in support of his kicker. Walsh just has to get out of his own way.
“Right now, he’s carrying the weight of 10 misses in his senior year into every kick,” Wilhoit said. “'Am I going to be able to get an NFL shot? Am I hurting the team? I’ve got to get it going.’ You can’t focus on those when you want to be on the top of your game.”
So from one kicker to another, how does Walsh get out of what has become a season-long slump?
“You have to accept that statistically this is not something you can rebound from,” Wilhoit said. “You can’t make five kicks in one kick. He really has to focus on the process rather than the outcome.
“In my opinion, it’s not a mechanical thing it’s a psychological thing. You can’t question your swing… What I would do is watch all of the film of my makes my sophomore and junior years, the big field goals I’ve made. He hasn’t forgotten how to kick.”