When the Minnesota Vikings selected Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, much was made of the fact that, while he was very good during his sophomore and junior seasons for the Bulldogs (hitting a combined 40 of 45 field goals), he had a bit of a drop-off as a senior, hitting on just 60% of his three-point attempts. People were even more surprised when the team let go of veteran kicker Ryan Longwell, leaving no competition for the kicking duties this season.
According to 1500 ESPN, Vikings' special teams coach Mike Priefer is okay with that. Priefer thinks that he's found the problem that caused Walsh to be so much more inaccurate in 2012 than he was in 2010 or 2011, and feels that Walsh can handle the duties with that problem resolved.
"He was rushing every kick," Priefer said. "Every kick he missed, he hit them well, but he was much too fast with his get off time. I don't know if that was what he was coached to do, maybe that's what he wanted to do.
"Usually you watch the ball get snapped to start (the) approach. I have him watching the holder's hands. When the holder lifts up his left hand, that's when he's going. That's what I've been coaching for years."
Kicking, as much as anything else in football, is all about timing. If Walsh has been trying to get to the ball too quickly for whatever reason, the holds might be off or there could be another issue that causes things to go amiss. If Priefer can get that problem corrected, then Walsh can be the kicker the Vikings clearly envision him to be.
Priefer also addressed the lack of a kicking competition for the rookie.
Priefer said the Vikings aren't planning to bring in competition for Walsh not because they are afraid he will fail, but because they want the rookie to get as much work as possible with holder Chris Kluwe and long snapper Cullen Loeffler.
"I think competition is a great thing to be honest with you," Priefer said. "I don't mind competition, but I think with what we're trying to accomplish with Blair and the chemistry between Cullen, Chris and Blair, to me, is extremely important.
Again, the team thinks that Walsh can be the man, and they're giving him every opportunity to do so. He doesn't have to split reps with anybody in camp or during pre-season games, and hopefully he'll be able to develop the chemistry that Ryan Longwell clearly had with Loeffler and Kluwe.
I was skeptical of the team drafting a kicker when it first happened, but seeing this sort of thing has eased my mind about it. If Mike Priefer thinks that he can get Walsh's issues fixed, I'll take his word for it.