ATHENS -- Blair Walsh almost laughed when he got the question. A place-kicker was getting asked if he would consider going pro early? Really?
“I haven’t given it much thought,” the Georgia kicker said. “As of right now I’m a Georgia Bulldog, and I’m happy to be one. You’ll cross that road when you get to it.”
Then he added, almost as an aside: “But where am I gonna go?”
So Walsh -- one of the nation’s best kickers -- will return. But what of a few other under-the-radar junior prospects? Georgia has quite a few.
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One need only look at ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s list of the top underclassmen by position:
Three Bulldogs are first at their respective positions: receiver A.J. Green, guard Cordy Glenn and Walsh. Two more are second: outside linebacker Justin Houston and punter Drew Butler. Ben Jones is also the fourth-rated center.
Here’s a look at the underclassmen who might consider the jump:
@BR Body Subhed:Green
The star receiver is currently No. 2 on Kiper’s “Big Board,” meaning he is the second-best prospect, regardless of position or class. Green isn’t much lower on other lists.
Green said last week he hadn’t made a decision and therefore wouldn’t ask to be honored with the seniors. But he admitted it was “always a possibility” it would be his last home game.
@BR Body Subhed:Houston
Houston, the SEC sack leader, has vaulted into a fringe first rounder. His size and speed make him a good fit for a 3-4 defense, which is popping up more often around the NFL.
Like Green, Houston has said he hasn’t made a decision. But considering Houston is a fourth-year junior, having redshirted as a freshman, few will be surprised if he leaves.
@BR Body Subhed:Brandon Boykin
The junior cornerback and kick returner may have seen his stock slip a bit since the beginning of the season. Kiper doesn’t have him rated among his top 5 junior cornerbacks, and longtime draft analyst Mike Detillier said last week that Boykin should return.
Boykin, who could have some value as a kick returner, was non-committal last week: “I got that question about a week or two ago and I told them I’m playing for the University of Georgia right now, I’m definitely not thinking about that. I will be a Georgia Bulldog until otherwise.”
@BR Body Subhed:Glenn
Glenn, a three-year starter, didn’t want to get into the NFL talk on Monday. He also declined to answer whether he would consider asking the NFL draft board for an evaluation, as many underclassmen do.
“I really haven’t talked to anybody about anything like that,” he said. “Right now it’s more about focusing on this week, trying to get to .500 and make it to a bowl game.”
@BR Body Subhed:Jones
Interior linemen don’t tend to get picked early in the draft, so Glenn and Jones would probably be in a similar position. No one doubts the pair has the size for the pros. But the struggles of the line this year could also lead some scouts to wonder.
@BR Body Subhed:Butler
The Georgia punter said last week that he had no plans “right now” to enter the draft. His best adviser on the matter will probably be his father, longtime NFL kicker Kevin Butler.
The simple fact is specialists rarely go pro, and don’t often get picked. But it’s also true that punters and kickers don’t really have much else to prove, once they show success on the college level.
@BR Body Subhed:Walsh
One of the last kickers to leave college early was Florida State’s Sebastian Janikowski, who remains with the team that drafted him 17th overall, the Oakland Raiders.
Walsh said it wasn’t “a definitive” that he would return, but added: “It’d be really tough to pass up another year here.”
Still, Walsh also sounded like someone who knows he has little left to prove.
“I think I’ve had a pretty good career,” Walsh said. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded kicker than me, to be honest with you. I’m not trying to be cocky when I say that. But I’ve been there, done that.”