the study of the kicking components within sports

Sunday, February 27, 2011

RBS 6 Nations: Week 3 Kicking

Scotland 18-21 Ireland

Dan Parks 6 points (1 drop kick & 1 penalty kick)
Chris Paterson 12 points (4 penalty kicks)
Prior to the match: "We all know how disappointed everyone was after the Welsh game, the players are more disappointed than anyone. We think about the last game - that has to be put right - but if you look over the 18 months there have been a lot of good results. If the performance is right, the result will be right. We're expecting a big performance on Sunday and to put right our wrongs from the Wales game."
Ronan O'Gara 11 points (3 conversions & 1 try)
"At this level the margins are very fine. We beat Italy by one score, lost to France by one score and have now beaten Scotland by one score. It is all about the win and that is what we did."

Mirco Bergamasco 6 points (2 penalty kicks)
Prior to the match: "We watched the game against England and saw the mistakes we made. The team has worked very hard this week to make sure we don't repeat them and we improve from that performance. We have concentrated especially on our defence, which struggled in London."
James Hook 3 points (1 drop kick)
"The performance wasn't great but at the end of the day we won. We're now two from two on the road and that's something to build on. We probably expected more from ourselves but the big thing was winning. When we all sat down in the changing room after the game, that was what counted most. There were negatives in our game. We started really well in the opening 20 minutes and our attacking flair was good but we played within ourselves in the second half and that was frustrating. We had to hang on because we didn’t want to let them back in it and we had to play smart."
Stephen Jones 11 points (1 conversion & 3 penalty kicks)

Toby Flood 9 points (3 penalty kicks)
Jonny Wilkinson 3 points (1 penalty kick)
"It was a good way to enter. When you come on you are searching for the feel of the game. It is very difficult to execute things when you haven’t got a feel of what is going on so you want anything that gets you involved. With a kick like that, you are then going back to receive the kick-off. It makes you feel like you are starting afresh....
It is maybe the first time in my career I have been aware of the situation – and that was only because someone told me in the week. They told me Carter had taken the record and I said ’brilliant, awesome for him’. And then someone said: ’Actually, you are quite close to taking it back’. I did wonder if I would get a penalty today if I came on - and it came up first thing. The record doesn’t mean that much to me, it is just nice to get straight into the game."
Dimitri Yachvili 9 points (3 penalty kicks)
Prior to the match: 'We are scared to play England. They are the team we're most afraid to lose to. It would be the worst defeat of all. It is THE game for us because of all the history in France, because of Jeanne D'Arc (Joan of Arc), all the stuff about England."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

AFL Kickers - American, South

Today we head south, for the second part of our look at this year's arena kickers. 

We started the other day with the East Division of the American Conference. Following are the five teams and kickers in the South Division.

Georgia Force, Carlos Martinez
  • Martinez  received AFL Second Team All Arena honors in 2010 with the Orlando Predators.
  • He previously played for the Force from 2007 to 2008. Martinez also competed for the Dallas Cowboys (2006) after spending two seasons with the Dallas Desperado (2004-06) and part of a year with the Fresno Frenzy of the af2 (2002).
  • Three-time All-America for Buena Vista University in Iowa. Named MVP of the 2001 Aztec Bowl as a senior and was named Division III Kicker of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior.
  • Martinez discusses the essence of kicking, among many other things, “This is what I love doing, so I do get excited. The adrenaline and pressure that goes through my body when I kick the football, I love that time.  For the five or six seconds it takes to kick a game-winning extra point or field goal, that’s paradise for me.”
Jacksonville Sharks, Marco Capozzoli
  • Capozzoli began his AFL career in 2010 as a member of the Tulsa Talons. In his six games played, he completed 38/44 extra points.
  • He attended Montclair State[NJ], where he was a four year player. He was chosen as the Division III Outstanding Male Athelete of the Year by the Collegiate Athletic Administration of New Jersey(CANNJ) for the 2009-2010 season, and was recipient of the NJAC Special Teams Player of the Year.
  • Capozzoli discussed the beginning of his football career back in high school, "One of the coaches, Len Davis, saw me kicking in the gym and asked me to come out. I always wanted to play football, but I was always so skinny. When I had the opportunity to play, I took it. We won a state title and I kicked a 32-yard field goal to give us the first points against Delbarton in the final. The funny thing is that I was all set to go to Don Bosco, but I changed my mind at the last minute. If I hadn’t gone to St. Joe’s, I never would have played football."
New Orleans VooDoo, Jonathan Ruffin
  • Ruffin's professional career started with the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) as an undrafted free agent in 2005. Continued with the Dallas Cowboys (NFL) before being allocated to NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder in 2006. Led Berlin to the World Bowl Championship, connecting on three field goals to claim the championship over Frankfurt.
  • He joined the AFL ranks in 2007 with the New Orleans VooDoo. He enters his third season with the team.
  • He played all four years at the University of Cincinnati. He finished as the school’s all-time leader in field goals made (62), attempted (79), field goal percentage (.785), extra points made (129), extra points attempted (134) and scoring (315 points). As a sophomore in 2000, he won the Lou Groza Award.
  • Ruffin learned the mental aspect of kicking back in his college days, "I think one of the most important things about being a kicker is just forgetting what happened, good or bad. To me, kicking is all mental. Any kicker in college football can come out here and kick field goals all day. But it's who can keep the mental composure to be able to do what you do in practice in a game."
Orlando Predators, Mark Lewis
  • The most accurate kicker in AFL history, with career numbers of 55.2% on field goals and 88.6% on extra points. In 2007 he was named AFL Kicker of the Year and First Team All-Arena. 
  • Lewis previosly played for the Dallas Vigilantes (2010), Columbus Destroyers (2008 & 2006), Austin Wranglers (2007), Las Vegas Gladiators (2005), and the Detroit Fury (2004).
  • Attended Florida International University from 1998-2000, where he did not play football, but did play soccer in '98.
  • Prior to arena kicking Lewis' only football experience was his senior year in high school back in 1997, "It's really not that big of a deal. I can kick pretty hard and accurate in soccer, too.... 'I just haven't gotten used to it like I have in soccer. 'I still feel nervous on the sidelines before every kick - until I get out there. Then once I'm on the field, I'm fine."
Tampa Bay Storm, Garrett Rivas
  • Rivas enters his second year with the Storm. In 2009 he played for the Florida Firecats of the af2. In the summer of 2007 he was in camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent.
  • He handled the University of Michigan’s placekicking job for four seasons, and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 354 points. He was named All-Big Ten first-team kicker in 2006 after a stellar senior season in which he made 17 of 20 field goal attempts and 42 of 44 extra points. Two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist (2005-06).
  • Last year Rivas discussed his daily routine as a substitute teacher, prep assistant coach, and arena kicker, "It is convenient to say the least. Having the availability to work during the day and report for practice and meetings at 6 P.M. is great and helps pay the bills.... If I am teaching on that day, I am at school by 8 A.M. Teach until 3:20, and then run the off-season conditioning for our football team until 5:00. I then hop on the interstate and head to the Forum. We practice until about 10:00 or so. I head home and prepare to do it all over again."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pre-Lockout Specialist Signings: Persistence

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Where there's a will there's a way.

Sure, they're tired old clichés, but they're clichés for a reason... probably because they're true. The themes surface often when discussing kicking and punting jobs in the NFL, as there are only 32 of each. In recent weeks, three candidates for those jobs were signed by NFL clubs. In each case they're trying again.

The Chicago Bears signed punter Richmond McGee. It will be his third consecutive off-season/pre-season with the team. We recently asked Richmond what he's been doing during the past couple years to hone his skills, stay in shape, and maintain mental focus?
"P90x, run three times a week, swim three times a week in the summer, kick 30 balls a day three times a week, and stretch. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. The hardest part is the transition to the punts with the deep snap and rush... and kicking in front of the whole team where it really matters. I try to make myself believe that I am with the team when I'm kicking on my own but it's not the same."
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed kicker Swayze Waters, who appears to be getting closer to a starting job with each passing year. In 2009, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by Detroit, where he served as a camp leg and pre-season injury fill-in behind Jason Hanson. In 2010 he was signed by Oakland, where he served as a camp leg behind Sebastian Janikowski. His efforts kept him on other teams' radar. Midway through the 2010 season, he tried out on the other side of the bay when the 49ers needed an injury replacement for Joe Nedney. Waters lost out that day to another persistent kicker, Shane Andrus. This summer in Pittsburgh, he could very well be competing for the starting job.

The New York Jets signed Nick Novak, whose situation is a little different. He has previous NFL starting experience from several years back, in brief stints with Washington, Arizona, and Kansas City. He's looking to get back into the NFL. Last summer, when he was serving as a camp leg and injury fill-in behind San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding, Novak discussed his situation:
"The most important thing for me was to get back on an NFL roster and to practice at this level on a daily basis regardless of the situation. I couldn’t go around choosing the perfect situation for a competition. This is as good as it gets for me at this point in my career....
As long as I focus on me and do the best I can, good things will come from it. That’s my attitude and I’ve got a great group of teammates that I think will help me become the best kicker that I can be. I have the utmost respect for all three of them. I’m not even focused on whether I’ll be here long term. My goal is to do my job the best I can."
Last fall Novak played for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL, which initially hindered his goal to return to the NFL, but may have eventually helped it. Part way through the season, he was set to return to the Chargers when Kaeding was again injured, but the UFL blocked the move. By the end of the season, he was the league's highest scoring player and was voted the league's Special Teams MVP, which probably factored into the Jets signing.

All three players have a shot at starting in the NFL in September. If not... tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AFL Kickers - American, East

Our whirlwind tour of indoor football leagues and their kickers continues with the AFL (Arena Football league), the oldest of the leagues. After a few test games in prior years, their inaugural season kicked off way back in in 1987. The 2011 season kicks off on March 11th

We begin our review of the kickers in the East Division of the American Conference.

Cleveland Gladiators - Matt Denny
  • Enters second season with the Gladiators. In 2010, converted 7-of-14 field goals and made 119-131 extra points. His 140 points were third-most in the AFL among kickers.
  • Spent the 2009 af2 season with the Quad City Steamwheelers.
  • Played four seasons at Carthage College (2004-07). Had his finest season of his career in 2007 at Carthage, converting on 11-of-17 field goal attempts, 36-of-36 extra point attempts and booted a career-long 49-yard field goal versus Millikin, tying for the longest in school history.
  • In an interview last April, he discussed arena kicking: "When I first started, I needed a couple games to adjust. Basically, I had to go half speed or 50 percent on my extra points and kinda get my rhythm down. It's not about how hard you kick it at this level. It's about accuracy."
Milwaukee Mustangs - Bob Forstrom
  • Played for Milwaukee last year, although they were then named the Iron
  • Kicked from 2007-09 for the Green Bay Blizzard (then of the AF2, now in the IFL)
  • All-American kicker for the Green Knights of St. Norbert College. In his final season, Forstrom was 6 for 8 on field goals with a long of 43 yards and 56 for 58 on extra points. Bob also earned an invite to kick in the 2006 Aztec Bowl, a game for Division III All-Stars to compete against the Mexican All-Star team.
  • "The obvious difference is in the goalposts. It is about half the size indoors [9-feet wide versus 18 1/2 feet]. When it comes to the actual kickoff, indoors is more of a placement. You're trying to put it between the uprights or hit it off either goalpost. That gives our guys the best chance to recover the kick.... It's all a mental thing. The crowd noise, people yelling at you have to block that out for those six seconds or so [of the kickoff]."
Philadelphia Soul - James Paul
  • Played two years in the Arena Football 2 for the Arkansas Twisters and Peoria Pirates
  • Attended the University of Central Arkansas where he started four seasons for the Bears. During his time at UCA he earned all conference honors as both a punting and kicking specialist breaking several records. Those records include most consecutive extra points (64), highest extra point percentage career (97%), tied 5th in career scoring, third in punt average (41.3), longest punt (81 yds.), third longest punt (76 yds.), highest punt average in a game (56.3 yds.).
Pittsburgh Power - Paul Edinger
  • Previously with two other AFL teams: the Jacksonville Sharks last year and the Chicago Rush for part of 2008
  • Played in the NFL for six years: Chicago Bears (2000-04) and Minnesota Vikings (2005). His 56-yard game-winning field goal against the Green Bay Packers on October 23, 2005 is the longest ever in Vikings history.
  • Kicked during all four years of his college career at Michigan State (1996-99). He also punted during his first two years.
  • "Anytime you can get the ball on the ground is a good thing. It gives us an opportunity to recover it. I'm picking out an upright or the bottom of the iron. That really is the best kickoff." - Edinger on arena kickoffs

Monday, February 21, 2011

IFL Intense Kickers

We continue our look at the kickers of the Indoor Football league. 

Last week it was the United Conference. Today we conclude with the Intense Conference.

Garrett Courtney or R.P. Lopez, Allen Wranglers
Allen police office Garrett Courtney is no stranger to uniforms, but the 33-year-old is in hot pursuit of another. A phone call from Allen Wranglers head coach Chris MacKeown on Monday, January 10, informed Courtney he had been invited to the team’s pre-season training camp. "I’m absolutely thrilled to death for the opportunity to kick for a professional team and a team in the community for which I work," he said.
Wingate University: Lopez had two conference game-winning kicks this season, one against Lenoir-Rhyne and the other against Carson-Newman. On the 2010 season, Lopez hit eight-of-nine field goals and 54-for-54 extra points. His 54 extra points are a new school record for PATs in a season. On Oct. 16, Lopez kicked a career-high four field goals (32, 23, 29 and 27 yards) as the Bulldogs defeated Tusculum College 33-27. On the same day, he set the school record for points in a single game by a kicker with 15.
Brett Owens, Amarillo Venom
Owens is a local product, having gone to Amarillo High. Senior year statistics: Made 36 of 40 PAT kicks. Averaged 50.5 yards on 50 kickoffs and had touchbacks seven times. Made six field goals, with three of those between 40-49 yards.
??? Bricktown Brawlers

Zeke Arevalo or Daniel Lee, West Texas Roughnecks
Arevalo returned to the Roughnecks in 2009 after taking several years off to pursue his college degree. In 2009, Arevalo hit 10-of-28 field goals during the regular season including 50-of-70 extra points made. Arevalo, at one point, made 14 consecutive extra points during the '09 season and was named IFL Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 16 of the IFL season after going 2-for-2 in field goals and 5-of-7 in extra points against Corpus Christi.
Lee began his college career at Vanderbilt and then transferred to Nebraska: “He’s gone coast to coast to participate in kicking camps," said Ron Litchfield, head coach at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo., where Lee played in 2002 and 2003. “He’s very accurate, very diligent." As a senior at Park Hill South, he made four field goals for a team that seldom tried them, Litchfield said. Nevertheless, Lee earned all-conference and all-district honors.
Sergio Velasco or Michael Navarro, Arizona Adrenaline
Back in 2005, Velasco contributed to Eastern Arizona College's upset win over Dixie State with field goals of 34 and 41 yards.
Josh Arauco or Rocky Stevens, Colorado Ice
"Josh is an incredible story. Maybe the worst college kicker that I've ever seen as a freshman. Lacked the leg strength, lacked the timing and the consistency. Everything. But he probably has the best work ethic of anybody that I've ever been around, and he worked himself into being one of the best kickers in college football." - Steve Roberts, Arkansas State head coach and special teams coordinator
During his time at Black Hills State University, Stevens was an NAIA All-American in 2005 and was named Dakota Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week in 2006 following the game in which the Yellow Jackets clinched their first ever conference title.
One other noticeable difference at this weekend's Cavs camp will be the addition of kickers as both 46-year-old Ron Gullberg of Casper and Buffalo's Travis Atter, a recent graduate of Chadron State, will compete for the position. The Cavs went without a kicker on the roster for years, with [former QB Matt] Strand handling the kickoff duties. [Head coach Dan] Maciejczak said he expects both Gullberg and Atter to make the final roster. "Unless one doesn't do a good job I'm probably going to keep both of them," Maciejczak said. "But I have the utmost confidence in both those guys."
Rett Thibodeaux, Fairbanks Grizzlies
Thibodeaux, a native of LaPorte, Texas, was announced as the team’s new kicker Friday. “Every time we’d get close to signing a kicker, they’d get signed by a CFL (Canadian Football League) or AFL (Arena Football League) team,” Robert Fuller, in his first season as Grizzlies head coach, said during a press conference Friday. “I knew Rett from Bismarck, but I didn’t know he had such a strong junior and senior season.” Fuller, although impressed with Thibodeaux’s seasons with the Marauders, said it’s the 23-year-old’s attitude that sold him. “It’s Rett’s personality and demeanor,” Fuller said. “He doesn’t ever get rattled. I saw him through ups and downs, and he never changes. His highs aren’t too high, and his lows aren’t too low. He’s steady.”
Dan Kleckner, Kent Predators
Video link above: A few of Kleckner FG's from the 2010 IFL Football season for the Predators.
Gary Cismesia, Tri-Cities Fever
Cismesia might be one of the last players the Fever signed before training camp opens, but he is one of the most important. Cismesia is that all-important kicker that always seems to play a vital role in indoor football games. Cismesia is a former all-ACC kicker at Florida State, and holds the conference record for most field goals in a season and the longest field goal in ACC history, records he set in 2007. His kick against Florida at the end of the first half from 60 yards still stands as the ACC longest field goal.
Scott Thomsen, Wenatchee Valley Venom
Thomsen, has played for a handful of semi-pro and pro teams, primarily in the Northern Utah circuit - both indoors and outdoors. In 2010, he spent a partial season playing in Washington state for the Wenatchee Valley Venom of the AIFA (American Indoor Football Association) where he quickly gained a fan base and became known for his strong leg and consistent touchbacks or "unos". Though, he didn't play a full season, he made a huge contribution to the team and he tied the record of 24 unos in just half a season. In 2009, Thomsen played for the Utah Valley Thunder of the AIFA, where he kicked 54 extra-points and six field goals.

Friday, February 18, 2011

IFL United Kickers

The Indoor Football League (IFL) 2011 season kicks off tomorrow evening with the Slaughter at the Spartans. 

We kick off our two-part run down of the league's kickers by looking at the United Conference.

Job open
Lehigh Valley Steelhawks
The Steelhawks will be holding kicker tryouts on Saturday, Feb 19th at Bucksmont Indoor Sports Center, 2278 North Penn Road, Hatfield, PA 19440, beginning at 6am.
Erik Rockhold, Reading Express
Rockhold has been with the Express since their first season in Reading in 2006. He has amassed 815 points in his career in Reading and holds the distinction of playing in every one of the Express' 84 games played. A product of Appalachian State, Rockhold has become not only one of the most durable and dependable kickers, but a fan favorite in Reading as well. Tagged with the nickname of "Erik The Rouge" for his ability to add points to the scoreboard after touchdowns, Rockhold has totaled 95 field goals, 423 extra points, and 107 rouges in his career.
Ryan Smith, Richmond Revolution
"My training regiment has been focused more on the lifting, speed training and plyometrics, although I am still doing some cardio. I have modified some of my lifts for more kicking specific strength and flexibility. I am getting stronger and my lifts have all increased 5-15%. My flexibility has also increased due to the amount of stretching and kicking.... I broke down my kicking mechanics after talking with a friend of mine that kicked for Kansas University and spent a preseason in the NFL. What we discussed was to focus on my plant foot and follow-through for accuracy. So I mainly do a lot of one-step kicks and have been in the accuracy range of 90-95%."
Peter Christofilakos, Bloomington Extreme
Christofilakos was a standout kicker while at the University of Illinois, where he was selected to the Big Ten All-Conference team in 2001 and was a Lou Groza Award finalist. He leads the Extreme in games played (73) and is the all-time leading scorer in franchise history with 719 points. He was an All-State and All-American soccer player in high school and college.
Chris Nendick, Chicago Slaughter
Nendick established several high school accolades such as: All DuPage Valley Conference, Honorable mention Daily Herald DuPage All Area, and Special Mention Chicago Sun Times All Area. Nendick had played 37 college games at Northern Illinois University, and with that, he kicked 136-138 (PAT), 45-61 (FG-A), his career long was 52 yards, and had a grand total of 271 points. Last year he set the IFL record for longest field goal with a 60 yarder in a Slaughter win over the Blizzard.
Craig Camay, Green Bay Blizzard
Camay was selected AP 2nd Team All American and 1st Team All Conference during his senior season at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Back in high school  was the no. 2 single-season scorer in the state of Georgia’s history and was MVP of the State Champion soccer team.
Mike Polaski, La Crosse Spartans
Mike finished his college career at Wartburg College and will play in his first professional game shortly. He attended the Madison, WI winter camp a couple weeks ago and performed very well.... One of the things he wanted to work on was his surprise onside kick. Onside kicks are utilized quite often in arena football and can be a huge weapon if executed properly. After playing around with some things, Mike has a good feel for what he needs to do now. It takes a lot of work to perfect that kick on a consistent basis.
Birkhofer was recently named as the fourth team kicker on's All-Decade Team. Among other things, Gradoville used the Ames test procedure on Gatorade while at Morningside College. Tomlinson has previously played for the Casper Storm and the Wyoming Calvary.
Ernesto Lacayo, Nebraska Danger
He may not play in the National Football League and his route to the professional ranks may be different from most, but the Hayward native is getting paid to play. And that sounds pretty good to him. "It didn't really hit me until I was talking to my parents and a couple coaches, and they started calling me a pro," Lacayo said. "It's still mind-boggling." Lacayo, a kicker who is 2007 graduate of Tennyson High School, signed a contract Jan. 15 with the Danger. "Of all the players I've had, he was by far the kid that just did extra every time," Tennyson football coach Terry Smith said. "He wanted to be a kicker. He wanted to kick in the pros. That was his goal."
Parker Douglass, Sioux Falls Storms
Douglass returns to the kicker position with the Storm after spending the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Las Vegas Locomotives. The Locomotives were the 2010 UFL Champions. Douglass was with the Storm briefly for the 2009 season before signing with the Cleveland Browns. He also spent time with the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints. "Parker has the talent to kick at the highest level. We are very fortunate to get him back into the Storm uniform," said Storm Owner, Todd Tryon. "He will play a vital role in our relentless quest for the 2011 Championship."
Dylan Pohlman, Wichita Wild
Pohlman started his professional career in Wichita with the Stealth of Arena Football2 (af2) in 2004. He also played for the af2 teams in Oklahoma City, Manchester, and Corpus Christi. Pohlman graduated from Tabor is 2003 and holds the majority of Blue Jay kicking records, including career Fields Goals and PATs and also holds the school record for points in a career (118) and a season (58).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Continental Kickers

Similar, indeed very similar, to last week's look at the UIFL, this week we take a look at the CIFL (Continental Indoor Football League). We again begin with a summary of the rules that impact the kicking game:
  • Goal posts are 12 feet from the floor to the crossbar. The crossbar is 10 feet in width. Anything used to hang the goalpost is considered a part of the upright.
  • Scoring – 6 points for TD, 2 points for run or pass conversion, or drop kick PAT, 1 point for place kick PAT, 2 points for defensive conversion following TD, 2 points for safety. 3 points for a field goal, 4 points for a drop kick field goal.
  • If a kickoff leaves the field of play on the fly, the ball comes out to the 25-yard line. The sideline walls and end zone walls are not out of bounds, and balls can be played off of them. If a kickoff leaves the field of play after making contact with the field or a player on either team, the ball comes out to the 5-yard line, or the point in which it leaves the field of play, whichever is closest to the kicking team’s goal line.
  • Offense – No punting. Offense must attempt to gain a first down or touchdown, or may attempt a field goal (by placement or drop kick).
  • Overtime is played with NCAA-style rules (each team gets one possession), but each possession is started with a kickoff rather than at the 25-yard line. Teams must go for a two point conversion (by scrimmage play) starting with the third overtime session.
  • The league does not utilize a rebound net, but otherwise, its rules are nearly identical to those of the Arena Football League.
Who are the continental kickers?
Special thanks to Brandon Yingling and Rasko Apostolovski, who answered a few questions for us. We also spoke with the Enforcers' Scott Duvall, but we'll save that for our upcoming feature on drop kicks, which happens to be his area of expertise.

How did you come across the CIFL (or how did they find you)?
  • Brandon: "I actually got contacted by coach Billy Back. He asked if I would be interested in kicking for the Commandos and I said yes. I had a tryout and got signed shortly after the tryout."
  • Rasko: "The Port Huron Predators found me from one of my old coaches, Jason Lovelock, who is now the offensive coordinator for the Predators. He coached me in semi-pro for the Detroit Seminoles, one of the most winning-est programs in semi-pro history, winning three national championships while I was with them. Plus I had a great repertoire kicking in semi-pro football. I had built a name for myself through all the hard work and my ability to be able to kick the ball."
What kicking adjustments, if any, have you made for the indoor game?
  • Brandon: "I have had to adjust to keep the ball down. The ceilings really force me to do so. That's really the biggest adjustment I have had to make."  
  • Rasko: "The Only real adjustments that needed to be made was from kicking thru uprights that were 18 feet wide and 10 feet high to much smaller uprights. Going to 9 feet wide and 15 feet high gave you less margin for error. It's where your accuracy really kicks in and is a big important part of the game, along with being able to incorporate the drop kick which is worth four points."
Looking back over your entire career, does a particular field goal come to mind as your biggest kick?
  • Brandon: "I didn't get a lot playing experience at UC when I was there. The biggest field goal in my career was in high school. I made a 53 yd field goal against Anderson my senior year, and I feel that's what got me on the map to get recruited to play in college."  
  • Rasko: "I've had many great kicks throughout my career with my longest being 56 yards. But out of all my kicks it would have to be, believe or not, a simple extra point which gave me my 800th point milestone for my career.  It ranked me 4th all-time scoring in semi-pro football history, which is a great feat and accomplishment for my career, which I just hit this past football season. I currently have 807 career points to go along with my seven All-American selections."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scouting Combine 2011: Specialists

The specialists arrive in Indianapolis next Wednesday. The NFL draft eligible players are part of the first batch of participants in this year's Scouting Combine. The itinerary for the group, which also includes offensive lineman and tight ends, spans four days:
  • Wednesday 23rd: Travel, Registration, Pre-exam & X-ray, Orientation, Interviews
  • Thursday 24th: Measurements, Exams, Media, Psych Tests, Interviews
  • Friday 25th:  NFLPA Meeting, Psych Tests, PK/ST Workout, Interviews
  • Saturday 26th: Workout (timing, stations, skill drills), Departure

East West Shrine Game practice: "You could see most of the NFL scouts, etc. with an annoyed look on their face, especially because the West's kicker, Dan Bailey of Oklahoma State, kept booting the kickoff out of the endzone."
Forbath, the 2009 Lou Groza winner for the nation's best kicker, has a strong accurate leg and should develop into a quality place kicker at the next level. He has the leg strength to hit field goals of over 50 yards. His greatest strength is his accuracy, as he is nearly automatic from under 40 yards and connects on a high percentage of longer field goal attempts.
So while others might be worried about 40-yard dash times and other testing drills that will mean a bunch at the NFL Combine, Henery has stayed in Lincoln since the Holiday Bowl and tinkered with things such as technique and approach steps. "It's something I've been working on pretty hard," Henery said. "That's probably the big thing I have to work on and improve. I don't feel pressure about it, just something I have to work on."
Senior Bowl practice report: "In Mobile, he adjusted to the size and compression of the NFL ball compared to the college version. Kickers often wind up being invited to camps as free agents after the draft, but Jasper hopes to hear his name called in the later rounds. He remains enrolled at LSU, but he has hired an agent."
"Rogers handled the kicking duties the past four seasons, and in the process is the all time leading scorer in Cincinnati history with 335 points. He hit a 54 yarder against Connecticut last season, which is the third longest in Cincinnati history. Jake has twice been the Big East special teams player of the week in his career. He also punted last season, holding down a 41.6 average."

"Bosher has the experience, versatility and talent to contribute in the NFL. Probably more of a placekicking prospect than punting prospect at this time. Has enough kicking power to make some long field goals and drive some punts down the field. Very accurate on shorter field goal attempts. Good athlete who can help coral a returner who breaks free. Stayed healthy in college while shouldering a big special teams load."
East-West Shrine Game: "Ryan Donahue had the play of the night. After a bad snap, the former Hawkeye punter was able to gather the ball, sidestep the rush, scramble toward the sideline and barely get off a rugby-style boomer that ended up about 40 or 45 yards downfield.... It's difficult for punters to get noticed, so plays like these help."
Prior to his senior season: "He's got a chance to play at the next level," said WSU first-year coach Dave Ungerer, who has coached special teams around the nation for more than two decades. "He's got a really strong leg, good hang time and he's a really good athlete. Those are things they look for."
While Chas Henry's former teammates are working on lowering their 40 times and weights as the NFL draft nears, the former Gators punter has done much of the training on his own.... He splits his time between his family's home near Atlanta, Gainesville and Montgomery, Ala., where he works with a kicking coach. Henry works alone most of the time, said his father, David. "He's still weight training and staying in shape and doing their cardiovascular," said David Henry. "It's a little different than the other guys."
Long snapper:

Aiken represented Virginia in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. After graduating from FUMA in 2006, Aiken saw action in every game throughout his four-year Cavalier career, and says he enjoys getting feedback from the NFL coaches on areas of improvement, "I talked to a few coaches, and they say strength, for my certain position, accuracy, things like that. It's good to hear the feedback, to know what I need to work on, to hopefully make it at the next level."

Monday, February 14, 2011

RBS 6 Nations: Week 2 Kicking

Ronan O'Gara 2 points (1 conversion)
"I play rugby to win and that's the bottom line. Our shape is great and we're very close, but we need results now. We need to be gutsy, make decisions and play what's in front of us."
Jonathan Sexton 5 points (1 conversion & 1 penalty kick)

Dimitri Yachvili 5 points (1 conversion & 1 penalty kick)
Morgan Parra 15 points (5 penalty kicks)
"We put ourselves in a corner with a catastrophic start to the match, and our game management was the same. Of course, we're very satisfied with the outcome. It's not every day you win in Dublin.... I liked the way we bounced back. It could have been a totally disastrous match but we fought our way back." - coach Marc Lièvremont

Dan Parks 6 points (2 penalty kicks)

James Hook 14 points (1 conversion & 4 penalty kicks)
"I haven't played at 10 all season so it's good to have had someone like Stephen [Jones] around with all his experience.... It's my favored position and I want to carry on."

Toby Flood 13 points (5 conversions & 1 penalty kick)
"We all know about hanging in there for 60 minutes against Italy, so we thought, why not do the scoring in the first five or 10 minutes?"
Jonny Wilkinson 6 points (3 conversions)

Mirco Bergamasco 8 points (1 conversion & 2 penalty kicks)

Friday, February 11, 2011

All-Star Bowls: Punters Postscripts

In the wake of two recent all-star games, one college and one prep, several punters weighed in on the experience of playing in the game and on their off-season plans.

Dixie Grid Iron Classic

"It was a great opportunity to play with a lot of good talent," Langston said. "I'm happy with the way I played and have no regrets in today's game." Langston said if there was anything he may have regretted it was not inviting enough friends and family. Langston won the halftime kick-off contest.
Although Dolan’s team, the Pacific All-Stars, suffered the loss against the Mountain All-Stars, he felt the experience was immeasurable. “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Dolan said. “Being able to compete with some of the most talented players from all over the nation was such a wonderful experience. It was also a great way to create exposure and to have a couple of good kicks on film.” Dolan, who leaves Nicholls as the career-holder in punting average (43.2 yard/punt), hopes to prolong his career at the professional level as he continues to train for pro day in mid-March. Along with working out, he will attend kicking camps and specialist combines.
U.S. Army All-American Bowl

Miller Snyder (signed with North Carolina) recently answered a few questions for us.

What were your impressions of the week leading up to the All American Bowl?
"The entire week was great. We were treated like kings and there was that perfect balance between being serious (practice) and having fun."
What moment will you most remember from the game itself?
"My 47 yard punt."
Did playing in the game help increase interest from colleges?
"I'm sure it would have but I committed before I played in the game."
What have/will you be doing for off-season training?
"I'm going to train with Athletic Republic and continue to do yoga and kick during the week."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ultimate Indoor Kicking

The latest addition to the world of indoor football is the Ultimate Indoor Football League, which kicks off its inaugural season this month. From a summary of the rules, following are those which pertain to ultimate kicking:
  • Goal posts are placed and centered above each end wall. The posts are 10 feet off of the ground and 10 feet wide. The uprights should extend 20 feet from the crossbar.
  • Kickoffs are from the goal line. Kickers may use a one-inch tee.
  • Punting is illegal. On fourth down, a team may go for a first down, touch down, or a field goal.
  • The receiving team may field any kickoff or missed field goal.
  • Any kickoff which goes out of bounds in the air shall be placed at the 20 yard line.
  • One (1) point for a conversion by place kick after a touchdown, two (2) points for a conversion by drop kick and two (2) points for successful run or pass after a touchdown. Teams may not fake a PAT/FG.
  • Three (3) points for a field goal by placement or four (4) points for a field goal by drop kick.
  • One (1) point will be awarded to the kicking team if the kicker, on a kickoff can kick the football through the uprights and over the crossbar. If the kicker misses the ball will be spotted on the 20-yard line.
So who are the ultimate kickers?
Special thanks to the latter two, who answered a few questions for us:

How did you come across the UIFL (or how did they find you)?
  • Chris: "Saginaw was really the only local team, so I attended the open tryout in December and got invited to camp."
  • Wes: "The UIFL open kicking tryout was brought to my attention by a friend who happened to see the news online and I quickly contacted the coaches at the Huntington Hammer to let them know who I was and that I would be coming to Huntington for their tryout."
What kicking adjustments, if any, have you made for the indoor game?
  • Chris: "You have to drive the ball more because of the stadiums and low hanging scoreboards. Other than that, it's still going through your steps, focusing and kicking through the ball towards your target.
  • Wes: "The primary kicking adjustment that I have made has been due to the low ceiling in the Big Sandy Super Store Arena. My ball flight trajectory was very steep and that caused my kicks to hit the ceiling; so I then had to concentrate on driving the ball with a lower trajectory to stay out of the rafters."
Looking back over your entire career, does a particular field goal come to mind as your biggest kick?
  • Chris: "My biggest kick would be against Indianapolis my junior year. I missed a field goal in the playoffs the previous year in overtime. It was our last game of the year and we were in double overtime. I hit from 41 yards out and sent the seniors off with one last victory. It was a very special moment and kick for me."
  • Wes: "There have been many 'big' kicks in my career for one reason or another. The one that stands out the most was my (school record) 49 yard field goal my senior year at Fork Union Military Academy that sealed our victory and sent us to the State Championship."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Recruiting Process per the Recruitees, part 3

High school players looking for the right college...

Universities looking for the right players to add to their freshman class...

We continue our inside look at the recruiting process, by asking kickers and punters from the Class of 2011 the following two questions:
  1. What would you say was the most beneficial advice you received before going through the recruiting process?
  2. Is there one thing you learned during the recruiting process that you wish you had known beforehand?
We previously looked at the first batch and second batch of answers. Today we feature the final set of responses. Thanks to all the kicker and punters who shared their thoughts with us.

Samuel Ficken, K, Penn State
  1. The most beneficial thing probably for me was to stay positive about the whole process. Recruiting is a roller coaster with ups and downs, and what you’ve gotta remember to keep working even throughout the low times.
  2. One thing I wished I had learned before this whole process is probably the fact that you need to go to the school’s camp in the summer as a junior or upcoming senior. It really helps the school put you on their radar and get to know you when the talent can be hard to find like in the special teams game.
Riley Harper, K, Utah State
  1. The most beneficial advice I received before the recruiting process began was from Jamie Kohl. He told me that a lot of kickers are going to have the talent to make it to the next level, but not all will have the work ethic. The ones who put the hours in on the field and in the weight room especially are going to be the ones who make it, as opposed to the kids who rely on sheer talent.
  2. One thing I know now that I'm nearly done with the recruiting process is that even with kickers, size and strength are extremely important to colleges during the recruiting process. I wish I would have focused on that earlier, but I still have a personal trainer and I am committed to Utah State, so I am happy with where I've ended up. But if I were to do it all again, I would put on an extra 20-25 pounds before my senior season started.
Blake Kidd, P, Air Force
  1. Probably not to limit myself to only Division 1 schools.
  2. I wish I had known the thoughts of the coaches recruiting so I would know what to talk to them about.
Chase Lansford, K, UNLV
  1. Some good advice I received was as simple as knowing that you’re going to a place where you’re going to be wanted, and also to make your decision on your own and not be persuaded.
  2. The recruiting process was very stressful and difficult, but if there was one thing I would have wanted to know it would have been that the coaches are not always as reliable and trustworthy as you perceive they are.
Tyler Tate, K, Bowling Green
  1. I would say the best advice I got was that, especially being a kicker, you have to get your name out there yourself and kind of do your own advertising. Schools really aren't going to come to you at this position.
  2. One thing I wish I knew better was that coaches lie a lot and are not straight forward like they ought to be. A coach told me I was number one on his list for six months while he offered a few other kids. I wish I was more aware of the messed up game of deception some coaches play with you to keep your interest.
Michael Branthover, K, Virginia Tech
  1. I think the most beneficial advice I received is to never let someone tell you you’re not the best, or you cannot do this or that. I would always strive to be the absolute best, start small and work your way up on the scale. There is going to be competition all over the country and all you need is to catch one coach’s eye out of all the Division I or II schools and earn your way onto the field.
  2. Throughout the recruiting process it has been a tough time seeing my friends who play quarterback, running back and wide receiver, being recruited first and eventually having coaches call my house when the season started. I think the only thing I would have known is where to train, and who to train with. I worked with Jamie Kohl for the first time this summer and was invited to a national combine, and he had put my name up on ESPN and compared me with all the kickers from California to Maryland. If I had worked with him through high school, I think I would be a better kicker. Yet, I am very happy with my decision with Virginia Tech and I am glad to be a Hokie!
Kris Albarado, P, USC
  1. The most beneficial thing that I was told before being recruited was that I had to get my name out there early and send videos and tapes to every school possible.
  2. The one thing I would have liked to know beforehand was that it's not always gonna go the way you want it. I was recruited by LSU, Florida, and Georgia very hard. But it was the school that started recruiting me last that I'm committed to. And a bit of advice for all the new guys is never stop trying if things don't go your way. It will all work out in the end for the best.
Taylor Bertolet, K, Texas A&M
  1. There were a lot of things I took in before starting the recruiting process that helped out tremendously. Probably the most beneficial was knowing all the NCAA rules, especially like when coaches could call you or not. Another important one would be to get your name out there to as much as you can with camps, videos, and emails so you can be recruited.
  2. I had studied the process pretty well and was familiar with it because my brother Matt went threw a similar type process with punting, but one thing I wish I knew was that not all colleges will be interested or respond back to you. It can be discouraging at times to not hear back from schools you would like. Don't let it stop you, keep at it, and show up at their college camp to prove to them you deserve it.
Drew Kaser, P, Texas A&M
  1. The most beneficial advice that I received before entering the recruiting process would have to be to get your name out there, either by going to kicking camps, calling up college coaches, emailing college coaches, or whatever way you can. Being recruited as a punter or kicker is so much harder than any other position because there are so few schools out there looking for one, but there are so many kicker/punters out there. And they are all trying to compete for the same job you are going after.
  2. The one thing that I learned during the recruiting process that I wish I had known before is just how hard it is to get a scholarship. I thought before that a bunch of schools were going to offer punters/kickers. I had a bunch of schools come out to my school, call me up and invite me out to there camp. Out of all of those schools, two offered scholarships. I thought that the process would be short and simple, but it was long and grueling. But in the end, you need to find the place that best fits you.
Matt Green, K, Oklahoma State
  1. The best advice that I received was that recruiting for kickers is a business. When you are being recruited you are usually the last one put on scholarship if you even get that. Most of the time schools try to get you to walk on. I was told to choose the school that told me the truth and didn't lead me on as to what their intentions were.
  2. I wish that I would have known a more efficient way to decide which camps to go to, and which schools were looking to scholarship a kicker. If there was a recruiting service that could tell you which schools were looking for a kicker it would greatly help save time and to increase a chance of a scholarship.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Kicking Postscript

While there was no game winning field goal in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XLV, both kickers each had a notable attempt in the second half. 

The moment came for Packers kicker Mason Crosby with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. On the previous possession, the trailing Steelers scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to close the gap to 28-25. The Packers subsequently drove and Crosby hit a short field goal to push the lead to 31-25, which would end being the final score.
"After the game, I was thinking that was probably the hardest 23-yard field goal of my career."
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham's moment came in the third quarter, with Pittsburgh trailing 21-17. They did not capitalize, as Suisham was wide left on the 52 yard attempt. Head coach Mike Tomlin noted afterward:
"That was a terrible decision by me. In hindsight it wasn’t even close. We made the field goal in pregame and he kicked the ball well going in that direction. I took a calculated shot at it and failed. But no judgment on [Suisham]. This guy has been everything that we’ve asked him to be. We picked him up along the way this season and he’s one of the reasons that we’re here. I appreciate his willingness to go out there under the circumstances that I put him in."
Finally, on a side note, special kudos to Calgary Stampeders kicker Rob Maver. Last week when we asked some specialists whom they thought would end up being the MVP in the Super Bowl, Rob made a gutsy call. Rather than going with one of the four obvious candidates that we had preselected, he prophetically went with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Although the MVP honors went to a QB this year, we remain confident that it will go to a specialist next year.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

RBS 6 Nations: Week 1 Kicking

The first round of matches in the Six Nations Tournament are complete. The goal kickers played a big role as anticipated.

Stephen Jones 11 points (1 conversion & 3 penalty kicks)
James Hook 3 points (1 penalty kick)
"We badly need to get a victory. It's tough at the moment. We are a good side, we know that, and we have some great players. It's just about getting that win. Losing first up is a massive disappointment for us, there's no hiding that."
Toby Flood 13 points (2 conversions & 3 penalty kicks)
"It's an important win, but I don't want to get carried away with it, and I don't think we will. Like the win against Australia in the autumn, it's part of the process. To win in Wales, and win well, is hard. We controlled the game for the majority of the time, except for near the end when we gave away a silly try. Test match rugby is difficult. If you make a mistake it costs you. It's nice to come here and win, it's something to be proud of. Hopefully, this is a stepping stone to more success. There's a long way to go and it's important we use this as a catalyst for the rest of the tournament."
Jonny Wilkinson 3 points (1 penalty kick)

Mirco Bergamasco 6 points (2 penalty kicks)

Ronan O'Gara 3 points (1 drop kick)
"At that stage in the game you go at it and don't think too much, you just do your job. The ability to do that comes with experience. As a youngster you don't understand that. I was told that once but it's when you get in my position – and I've been lucky to steer the Ireland and Munster ship for 10 years – that you understand it.... Then someone like Jonny comes in and he's really good but to continue the analogy, when the ship hits choppy waters, you bring someone in. Jonny played well but I got backed to come on and try to win the game. It's important to have two fellas fighting it out because we can offer a lot going forward."
Jonathan Sexton 5 points (1 conversion & 1 penalty kick)

Dimitri Yachvili 7 points (2 conversions & 1 penalty kick)
Morgan Parra 4 points (2 conversions)
"Scotland is both an ideal adversary and also one that could lure us into a trap. It is a team which likes to play — something one rarely gets in the Six Nations — a team which has nothing to lose against France."
Francois Trinh-Duc 3 points (1 drop kick)

Dan Parks 6 points (3 conversions)
"It's a really great stadium to play in. The French people are going to get right behind their team. We're going to hopefully spoil that party - that's our plan, to go there and impose ourselves on the match. France are an exceptional team and we're going to have to be at our best to win the match."