Due to the recent controversy over the kicking game at SDSU and the college level in general, TKS had to chime in.
Last week, SDSU head coach Rocky Long decided not to kick any extra points or field goals in a 21-12 loss to Washington. Coach Long has since explained that his thought process was based on a logarithm or “chart” set up by SDSU professor Jim Lackritz that tells him when to go for it on fourth downs and points after touchdowns. It seems to recommend bypassing the kicking game and scoring as many points as possible when the team is close to the endzone, a strategy that’s certainly affected by Coach Long’s hesitancy about the current kicking situation.
Illustrating that, Coach Long and his staff have yet to decide on a starting kicker going into the second game…and it’s tomorrow. They also haven’t decided on a starting punter. Coach Long recently said, “I’d be willing to get rid of all kicking.”
The last time I checked, kickers do win games—close ones, actually. Need I remind you of Auburn and Oregon back in 2011 when Wes Byrum kicked the game winner in the NCAA National Championship game. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a video:
To express that you want to get rid of the kicking game in general is a red flag in my book. Special teams is a huge part of football and every point counts. Kickers already feel left out most of the time; add that to the comment from the head coach about not even wanting to have kicking, and the specialists aren’t going to have much confidence. SDSU doesn’t have any kickers with game experience at the college level. How do you think they’ll feel now when going out for a field goal?
In a recent San Diego Union Tribune article, Coach Long said, “Look at our field goal percentage last year…I don’t think we have any better kickers than last year.” Great vote of confidence coach!
To be honest, I haven’t been particularly impressed with how the Aztecs handle their kickers and punters and how they’ve recruited them for the last few years. I’m not impressed with most schools, by the way. Remember, I come from a very traditional approach, where I learned the importance of having depth at each position. Coach Tom O’Brien taught me that at Boston College.
Normally, you try to have a kicker in his junior or senior year playing while you have a backup freshman or redshirt freshman waiting in the wings to follow him. Obviously, this isn’t the case at the Mesa. They decided to recruit a junior college kicker, Able Perez, for his booming kickoffs. They recently added a scholarship kicker for this season.
Last time I checked, most of the coaches recruiting kickers at SDSU are left over from Coach Hoke’s tenure. They had every opportunity to recruit Davey Last from Valley Center, who arguably had the best kicking career in San Diego history. He even kicked a game-winning 47-yard field goal over Las Alamitos, a state-ranked team, his senior year. Take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCcyROiVgnk. Davey, now kicking for University of San Diego, could have easily been waiting in the wings at SDSU, ready to kick this year. Just saying…
This sums up Coach Long’s take on recruiting kickers or punters: “When we went looking for a punter and a kicker, we wanted a guy that did both. We watched all these kickers and punters on film, and I told the coaches that were recruiting that I didn’t want just a kicker and a punter. I wanted an athlete.”
Does this mean if you just kick or punt you’re not an athlete? And how can someone who knows football think that one person could have the skills to do both? For those of you who don’t know the kicking game that well, kicking and punting are technically very different. They involve two complete different swings, and you use your hands when punting, while you don’t when kicking. There are many other differences and variables, too many to list here. The bottom line is if you recruit a kid from high school who hasn’t specialized in one or the other, it can certainly show in the long run.
A case in point is Brian Stahovich, a TKS alum and recent graduate scholarship punter at SDSU who’s a record holder. Brian focused on punting when he was in high school and college. He didn’t even try to kick field goals in college. By being able to focus of punting, he excelled.
Former Special Teams Coach Toby Neinas, who worked under Chuck Long, recruited Brian. In 2007 and 2008, I was director of the SDSU Summer Kicking Camp, where coach Neinas looked hard and long at Brian while he was in high school. He was able to see him kick live and in person, not just on video. Last time I checked, SDSU doesn’t have a summer kicking camp anymore, and it seems they don’t think they need one.
Coach Long has said he has an excellent relationship with his kickers and punters. He was recently quoted as saying, “I talk to them every day, because when everybody else is meeting, they are sitting in the lobby over there, so we have a discussion every day.” I wonder what the discussion is about…their plant foot, follow-through, or maybe their approach to the ball? I think not…
For whatever reason, it’s a common theme in college football that kickers and punters don’t get the help they deserve. There are no coaches on staff to help them from a mechanical or mental standpoint. At SDSU, I know Coach LeCharles McDaniel tries to help out with the punters, but he doesn’t have enough time as he’s coaching another position.
Add to that the fact that kickers and punters don’t get enough time in pressure situations in practice. Coaches need to add in more time for the kicking game and put constant pressure with their specialists. One kick at the end of practice isn’t enough.
In the NFL, the kicking game is obviously not frowned upon, as we continue to see kickers and punters getting big contracts, producing game-winning field goals, and providing a competitive advantage with respect to starting field position. What a shame that it’s so hard to find good kickers and punters at the college level, but there are specific reasons for that. There’s just not enough focus on kicking and punting at the high school level and not enough help from the college coaching staffs
Just a reminder: A recovered surprise onside kick can quickly change a game. Oh, I forgot, Coach Long wants to get rid of kicking altogether. Is that going to serve the Aztecs well? I think not.