football

Is it necessary to offer kickers Maybe not

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JustabouteverycollegefootballprograminthecountrywouldlovetohaveMissouri'srecenttrackrecordwithplacekickers.
What'sthesecrettotheTigers'success?Theygenerallydon'tofferscholarshipstokickersdirectlyoutofhighschool.
"Forthemostpart,we'vebeenmoresuccessfulhavingguyscomeinandprovethemselvesovertimeandwinningthejob,"saidMissourioffensivecoordinatorDavidYost,whoalsoservesastheprogram'srecruitingcoordinatorandkickingcoach.
Thatplanhasproducedsomeremarkablesuccessstories.
JeffWolfertenrolledatMissouriasadiverandhadjustonegameofhighschoolkickingexperiencewhenhedecidedtowalkontotheTigers'footballprogram.Heendedhiscollegecareerin2008asMissouri'scareerscoringleader.
WolfertwassucceededbyGrantRessel,aformerall-Big12pickwhowentacombined43-of-46onfield-goalattemptsin2009and2010beforeslumpinglastyearandmissingmuchofthesecondhalfoftheseasonwithahipinjury.
Missouri'sstrategyisunusual,butit'shardlyunprecedented.
Atleast16ofthe121FBSnon-academiesdon'thaveakickerwhowasofferedascholarshipdirectlyoutofhighschoolorjuniorcollege.ThatlistincludessuchheavyweightprogramsasOklahomaandWisconsin.
EachofthelasttwoLouGrozaAwardwinners-TexasA&M'sRandyBullockin2011andOklahomaState'sDanBaileyin2010-beganhiscollegecareerwithoutafootballscholarship.Bullockwasathree-starrecruitwhoturneddownscholarshipoffersfromotherprogramstowalkonatTexasA&M.Otherformerwalk-onswhowentontowintheGrozaAwardincludeOregonState'sAlexisSerna(2005)andLouisville'sArtCarmody(2006).
Acrossthecountry,thereareplentyofexampleseachyearofscholarshipkickersgettingbeatenoutbywalk-onswhogoontohavebigseasons.
AfterkickingforNotreDameasatruefreshmanin2009,NickTauschgotbeatenoutbywalk-onDavidRuffer,whodidn'tmissafield-goalattemptthroughoutthe2010regularseason.PhiladelphiaEagleskickerAlexHenerybeganhisillustriousNebraskacareerasawalk-onbeforebeatingoutscholarshipkickerAdiKunalic.
[Related:Polishkicker'slongjourneytoAlabama]
"Asawalk-on,youdon'tgetawholelotof[attention]upfront,"Henerysaid."Youdon'tthinkyou'vearrived,soyoujustkeepworkingeachyear.Idon'tknowifitmakesadifferenceasawalk-on,butitwasjustmymindsetcomingin.You'rethereandyou'lldoeverythingfortheteamthatyoucanandhelpthemoutinanywaypossible."
Ofcourse,that'strueofwalk-onsateveryposition.Sowhyiskickertheonepositionwherewalk-onsseeminglyhavethebestshotofbeatingoutscholarshipplayers?
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Foronething,thetransitionfromkickingoffateeinhighschooltokickingoffthegroundincollegesometimesprovesdifficult.
"Whenyouuseatee,itwillhidealotofyourmistakes,''saidChrisSailer,aformerAll-AmericakickeratUCLAwhonowrunstheChrisSailerKickingcamp."Youcanusepoortechnique,andbecauseyouhavethattee,itcorrectsyourerrorsforyouinasense.Butwhenyougotothegroundandusethatpoortechnique,thatballyouwerehitting55yardsisnowhittingyourlinemaninthebutt.''
Thatsaid,Sailerbelievesthatwasmoreofanissue10yearsagothanitisnow.Henotedthatmostoftoday'scollegekickingprospectsunderstandtheyneedtomaketheadjustmentandmakesuretheypracticekickingofftheground,whetherit'sathomeoratvariouscampsacrossthecountry.
Butthementalsideofkickingatthecollegelevelcontinuestomakeithardtopredictwhichprospectswillsucceed.VirginiaTechcoachFrankBeamercomparestheup-and-downlifeofakickertothatofagolfer.Sometimesthey'reon.Sometimesthey'renot.
"There'smoretoitthanjustphysicallybeingabletokick,"Beamersaid."Ithinkmentallybeingabletoperform[iscritical]becausethere'snothingtougher.There'snothingtougherthanafield-goalguygoingoutthereanddoingaveryexactthingandthenrunningbackoffthefield.''
That'sthedilemma.Howdoyouprepareforthechallengeofkickinginfrontof80,000peoplewithagameontheline?
Kickingprospectsgetatleastatasteofthatpressurewhentheycompeteagainsttheirpeersatcamps.And,ofcourse,theymayhavefacedpressuresituationsontheirhighschoolteams.Butthatdoesn'tnecessarilymeanthey'llmakeasmoothtransitiontoabiggerstage.
"It'shardtoseesometimeshowguysaregoingtodevelop,"NebraskacoachBoPelinisaid."Alotofthesekidsinhighschoolhaven'tbeencoached.They'rejustkindofgoingoutthereandkickingontheirown.Oncetheystarttogetcoachedandstarttogetinstruction,itallowsthemachancetodevelop.Nowthey'regoingtodevelopjustlikeatanyposition.''
Giveawalk-onayearortwotodevelop,andhejustmightbeatoutafreshmanonscholarshipwhoisstilladjustingtocollegelife.
"Whenawalk-onbeatsoutascholarshipplayer,it'susuallyanolderguywho'sbeentherelonger,who'sbeenabletopracticetwoorthreeyearsandhasbeenintheprogramalready,"Sailersaid."Thathappensallthetimebecausethey'rementallymorereadyandthey'vebeenthere,sotheyhavetheexperience.Thatdoeshappen.Seeinga[walk-on]freshmanbeatouta[scholarship]freshmanisprettyrare.''
Pelinisaidhetypicallylikestohaveatleasttwokickersonhisroster-onescholarshipplayerandonewalk-on.Hethenjustletsthecompetitionplayitselfoutduringthepreseason.
Missouritriesasimilarapproach,onlyitlikeshavingthreekickersincampanddoesn'tincludeascholarshipplayerinthemix.ThelastMissouriplacekickertoearnascholarshipdirectlyoutofhighschoolwasPlano(Texas)West'sMattCasaday,whosignedwiththeTigersin2005asacombinationkicker/punterbutneverreachedthetopofthedepthchartateitherposition.
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ClickHeretoviewthisLink.Sincethen,theTigershaveofferedonlyperceivedcan't-missprospectssuchasformerHouston(Texas)ClearLakestandoutDustinHopkinsClickHeretoviewthisLink.,whosignedwithFloridaStateClickHeretoviewthisLink.asthenation'stop2009kickingrecruitandnowisrankedbynfldraftscout.comastheNo.1kickingprospectinthe2013draftclass.
Missourichangeditsrecruitingstrategyafteritsscholarshipkickersfrequentlygotbeatenoutbywalk-onsearlyinGaryPinkel'scoachingtenure.Ifawalk-onwinsthejobandproveshecanhandlethedemandsthatcomewithit,that'swhentheTigerswillawardhimascholarship.
"We'vescholarshippedtheseguysoncethey'veprovedthemselves,"Yostsaid."We'reaschoolwhereyoucancomeinanddoagoodjobandwe'lltakecareofyou.Ifyouwinthejob,we'renotgoingtosignsomebodyandseeifthatguy'sbetter.Ifyouwinthejobandshowusandwefeelyoucanbetheguyforhoweverlongyouhaveleft-twoyears,threeyearsoroneyear-ifyouearnthejobandwinit,we'renotgoingtogooutandtrytoscholarshipsomebody[else].We'regoingtotakecareoftheguywhoearneditandtookcareofus.''
AndtheTigerscertainlywon'tplayfavorites.
Thatmuchbecameobviousin2006whenWolfertwonMissouri'skickingjobbybeatingoutincumbentstarterAdamCrossett,whohappenstobeYost'sbrother-in-law.
"Itdidn'tmakeThanksgivingalotoffun,"Yostsaid,"butthebottomlineisitwasthebestthingfortheprogram.Thebestguy'sgoingtoplay."
InMissouri'scase,thebestguytypicallywasn'tofferedascholarshipstraightoutofhighschool.
SteveMegargeeisthenationalcollegecolumnistforRivals.com.Hecanbereachedatsmegargee@rivals.com,andyoucanclickheretofollowhimonTwitter.
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