There has been plenty to talk about in regards to kickers due the recent events in the college and NFL football leagues. For college football it has been for kickers missing field goals. The CAL and Stanford kickers both went 0-3 in field goals this past weekend and in the BYU/Utah State game the kickers combined for a staggering one for six on field goals. I really don’t want to get into the SDSU saga, as they are 0-3 for field goals from inside forty yards. Or the Penn State debacle…
On the other hand, in the NFL, the kickers can do no wrong. Just recently, David Akers (TKS Radio Guest) tied the NFL record of 63-yard field goal. He was not even in the thin air of Denver or the heat of Arizona. Twenty-three kickers in the NFL are still perfect for the season. I know its still early and the weather has yet to change seasons, but those are great numbers. They can’t miss even if they wanted to. Don’t forget its been touchback season, as most kickers are finding their kickoffs in the back of the end-zone.
Well what is the difference between NFL kickers and college kickers?
Simple, when a kicker gets recruited out of high school, most of the time it’s due to just raw power. I have talked to numerous coaches over the years, and they all want to see the ball fly a long way. Coaches dig the long ball.
There are many kicking combines and camps that strictly enforce a numbers game with players and coaches. If you kick the ball the furthest in our camp you will get a scholarship. Coaches then see who kicked the furthest and pick according to power. They fail to read inside the numbers, what kind of character traits the student-athlete has. Can he handle the pressure? Does he have a work ethic? How good is his technique?
The main reason this happens is because most college coaches don’t know anything about kicking. They way it works now days, is that a division one college will recruit and offer a specialists when their current kicker is a junior or senior. In most cases when their current kicker is a senior. Each program will have “walk-ons” that come and go every year, some stay if they feel they can get a shot, others move on and relish the experience by being on a college football team. Essentially, there will be one kicker on scholarship pending on the situation. Often times, colleges don’t have substantial backups because a college program will try not to have two scholarship kickers on roster. They want to use the scholarship on another position. If a starting kicker gets hurt or has a poor performance, sometimes there is not a viable back up.
Back to my point, coaches normally recruit the kids with the best hang times and distances on kickoffs. I have seen it again and again, where there are better kickers available. When their scholarship kicker misses three times in a row they don’t want to put a non-scholarship kicker out there and show them they made the wrong choice. I have to remind everyone kicking is not all about power, consistency is key. Improving the recruiting process for kickers would help the current situation, which means they would need to have someone on staff that knows what they are talking about in the kicking game. Oh I forgot… they don’t want to waste a staff position for a kicking coach. Never mind.
In the NFL, there are number of reasons kickers are often after thoughts and looked upon with disbelief if they miss a chip shot forty yard field goal. First of all, missing a kick inside forty-five yards rarely happens these days. From my personal experience and coaching I know first hand the competition level for kicking in the NFL is very high. They are hundreds of free agent kickers looking to latch on somewhere all are ready to fly in a city within an hours notice. In the NFL, all the kickers have the power to kick the ball a long way, coach’s look for consistency. If you miss a couple of chip shot field goals, you can kiss your brand new Range Rover good bye as a NFL kicker. The general manager will fly 5-10 kickers in, try them all out and sign one by mid-week. The NFL does not allow for many missed field goals, where there is plenty of pressure and money on each kick.
Another aspect is that many of the free agent kickers are very refined; some coming from other football leagues others have been out for a few years. Most of the kickers are kicking year round to be ready for any tryout that may be coming up. Sometimes a college senior may not latch on to a team for a few years after college or even longer. In the meantime they refine their technique and refine and refine. The coaches want a kicker with the same kicking stroke every time. They like to see the ball traveling the same way – every kick. They also notice the characteristics of each player’s personality. Is he level headed, laid back, have a good work ethic, patient, etc.
I can tell you there are more than 15 free agent kickers in San Diego alone training every day, can you imagine how may more are out there across the country.
Bottom line – when a kicker makes an NFL team he usually has missed a few important kicks in his career and knows how to handle the pressure. Whereas a college kicker, may have never had a chance to kick a game winner in high school, Some times they kick as little as 3 field goals a year a the high school level. The college kickers don’t have the experience and most of the time have to learn it on their own and work with other kickers or kicking coaches in the off-season to develop.
Lets see how this weeks college kicker perform…