the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, March 30, 2012

Draft Preview: David Ruffer

Among the kickers eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is Notre Dame's David Ruffer. He ranks in the top ten in many of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from Ruffer's profile page on the Fighting Irish's website:

2011 5th-year Senior Season
  • against Boston College made field goals of 40, 41 and 27 yards in a 16-14 victory
2010 Senior Season
  • named to the 2010 First Team ESPN Academic All-America Football Team
  • finalist for the 2010 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award
  • 23 straight field goals was the longest streak in school history
  • became the second Irish place kicker to ever register multiple field goals of 50 yards or longer in the same season
  • named John Folmer Most Valuable Special Teams Player at Hyundai Sun Bowl
2009 Junior Season
  • Participated in each of final seven games for Irish, taking over field-goal duties for the injured Nick Tausch against Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Stanford
  • shared kickoff duties during season, booting 35 kicks for an average of 62.1 yards, including two touchbacks
2008 Sophomore Season
  • joined Notre Dame team during bye week and dressed in full pads for first time at practice on Wednesday, Oct. 22
  • transferred to Notre Dame from William & Mary following 2007-08 school year
High School
  • graduated from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.
  • never played football in high school ... played soccer as freshman and was varsity golfer all four years

2011: 10 of 16 (62.5%) FGs; 47 of 47 PATs; 77 points
2010: 18 of 19 (94.7%) FGs; 37 of 40 PATs; 91 points
2009: 5 of 5 (100%) FGs; 9 of 10 PATs; 24 points
2008: 0 of 0 FGs; 0 of 1 PATs; 0 points

Last November, Ruffer discussed his career goals:
"I think I really need to give the NFL a try. It's an experience not many people get. I think I owe it to myself to go see what's there at the next level. That said, I'm not holding my breath or anything. I know there are only 32 guys kicking in the NFL, and there are a lot more than 32 guys who are good enough to kick there. I'll keep reasonable levels of expectations of that.... If it doesn't work out, I'll go find a job somewhere in the finance industry."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Draft Preview: Danny Hrapmann

Among the kickers eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is Southern Mississippi's Danny Hrapmann. He ranks in the top five in many of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from Hrapmann's profile page on the Golden Eagles' website:

2011 Senior Season
  • selected All-Conference USA Second Team
  • tied conference and school records by booting five field goals in a tight game against UCF. Named Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season
2010 Junior Season
  • Named a first-team All-America by the Walter Camp Foundation
  • A first-team All-Conference USA selection at place kicker
  • A Lou Groza Award finalist, and mid-season All-America pick by
  • A two-time Groza Award "Star of the Week" for the East Carolina and Tulane games as well as the C-USA's Special Teams Player of the Week following the ECU tilt
  • Made career-long 54-yard field goal against UAB and had a made 59-yarder against Houston negated by a late timeout call
  • Also handles kickoff duties and averages 63.1 yards per kickoff over 88 attempts in 2010, including six touchbacks
  • Punted five times for an average of 43.0 yards and a long of 55 and ran for 19 yards on a fake punt deep in the Golden Eagles' own end late against East Carolina
  • Named to spring semester Athletic Director's Honor Roll ... 
2009 Sophomore Season
  • Handled kickoff duties all season and took over place kicking and field goal duties at Houston (10/31)
  • Had 75 kickoffs for 4,521 yards (60.3 kick avg.) and five touchbacks
  • Named to fall semester Athletic Director's Honor Roll
  • New Orleans Bowl: Was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts ... Made kicks from 20 yards and 38 yards
2007 Freshman Season (Southeastern Louisiana)
  • Handled kickoffs and made two PATs
High School
  • Received a two-star rating by and ranked No. 22 among kickers nationally ... 
  • a two-time All-District 8-5A selection at New Orleans' Holy Cross High School
  • named to the New Orleans All-Metro and Class 5A All-State teams

2011: 23 of 34 (67.6%) FGs; 61 of 62 PATs; 130 points
2010: 26 of 31 (83.9%) FGs; 55 of 55 PATs; 133 points
2009: 4 of 7 (57.1%) FGs; 14 of 18 PATs; 26 points

Last September, Hrapmann discussed the first several years of his college career:
"As a walk-on, you aren't necessarily given anything less than a scholarship player, but you have to work just a little harder for the coaches to take notice of you. Coach (Larry) Fedora didn't even know who I was when I first started kicking but he said to me once, `You keep kicking like that, I'll remember who you are.'"
The [2009] bowl game, when I hit both of my attempts, was really the first time that I felt confident on the ball. It gave me the confidence I needed to go into the Spring and on to 2010 that I could do this."
(Punter) Peter Boehme was really instrumental in my turnaround as a kicker, and he can be attributed to a lot of my success. He took holding to another level and gave me that trust to say to myself, `The ball is there and ready,' so that I just had to kick it through."
When you look through the record books at Southern Miss, you see guys like Darren McCaleb and Ray Guy at the top of many of the lists for the kickers. It's humbling and exciting at the same time to know you have done something only two other men have ever done, Ray especially.
Not winning the Groza award stung a bit, but (Oklahoma State's) Dan Bailey won the award and he's a great guy. I got to know him really well along with (Notre Dame's) David Ruffer, and all three of us were walk-ons, which I thought was neat. I get to have the recognition of being on the Walter Camp team which, to me, means that I wasn't overlooked and was still seen as one of the best kickers in the nation."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Draft Preview: Carson Wiggs

Among the kickers eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is Purdue's Carson Wiggs. He ranks in the top five in the majority of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from Wiggs' profile page on the Boilermakers' website:

2011 Senior Season
  • Hit 67-yard field goal in Purdue's 2011 spring game
  • Senior Bowl: Made 27, 32, and 28 yard field goals in the game and missed a 37-yarder. He averaged 64.2 yards on five kickoffs, two of which went for touchbacks.
2010 Junior Season
  • Honorable mention All-Big Ten (coaches and media)
  • made final eight straight field goals, with a long of 52
  • averaged 65.2 yards on kickoffs, including 11 touchbacks, to help Purdue lead the Big Ten in kickoff coverage
2009 Sophomore Season
  • Lou Groza Award watch list (nation's outstanding kicker)
  • co-recipient of team's Most Valuable Player Award for special teams (also Robert Maci)
  • broke own school record with 59-yard field goal vs. Toledo on Sept. 5 ... it marked the nation's longest field goal of the season ... 
  • named Star of the Week by Lou Groza Award and Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking four field goals vs. Ohio State on Oct. 17 (27, 32, 49 and 55 yards)
2008 Freshman Season
  • first successful field goal was school-record 53-yarder (since broken) at Ohio State on Oct. 11
High School
  • Ranked as No. 4 kicker nationally by and No. 11 by
  • participated in Under Armour All-Star Game in January 2008
  • made 15 of 23 field goals and 67 of 69 PAT attempts for career

2011: 19 of 25 (76.0%) FGs; 39 of 40 PATs; 96 points
2010: 15 of 19 (78.9%) FGs; 27 of 27 PATs; 72 points
2009: 14 of 21 (66.7%) FGs; 40 of 41 PATs; 82 points
2008: 8 of 11 (72.7%) FGs; 19 of 21 PATs; 43 points

Wiggs discussed his prospects and preparation at last month's Scouting Combine:
"A lot of people say seventh round, maybe. It blows my mind to think I could get drafted. I watch all those guys in New York. Obviously, I'm not going to be there. But I see that situation and have a chance to be in similar shoes....
I'm not sure there's a lot more preparing to do. I've kicked in some of the biggest venues: the Big House (Michigan), Ohio State, night games, you name it. I've had chances at game-winning kicks. For the most part, this just enables them to see us in person, see how that ball jumps off our foot."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Philosophy of Kicking

The study of kickology has exploded in popularity for many reasons. Giving it broad appeal is the fact that it encompasses diverse and numerous other fields, including physics, psychology, meteorology, horticulture, geography, statistics, and economics - to name just a few. It offers something for everyone. For those inclined towards pondering philosophical questions, kickology is an obvious pursuit. Over the centuries, many of the big thinkers have grappled with meaning of kicking.

Disclaimer: the following sample references are paraphrases and are not necessarily exact quotes.

“The unexamined kick is not worth kicking”
As with any (Western) philosophical overview, we begin in ancient Greece - the root of many facets of modern civilization, including athletics and sports. Two ball games were played by the Greeks. The rules of Episkyros are unclear, but it apparently allowed the use of hands. Some suggest it may have been similar to Rugby. Two teams played on a field and it involved a ball. Harpaston was played on a field with a center line and end goal line. The object of the game was to pass, kick, or run the ball past the opposing team's goal.

While some Greeks were kicking, others were examining.

Socrates’ belief that we must reflect upon the life we live was partly inspired by the famous phrase inscribed at the shrine of the oracle at Delphi, “Know thyself”. Socrates felt so passionately about the value of self-examination that he closely examined not only his own beliefs and values but those of others as well. More precisely, through his relentless questioning, he forced people to examine their own beliefs.
Self-examination of one's efforts plays a key part in the development of today's kickers. Technology allows a kicker to document and review every physical detail of a kick. Although less tangible and less prevalent, the examination of the mental aspects of kicking are on the rise.

“The life of a kicker is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
If you're looking for the bright and cheery take on things, this is not it:
Hobbes believed we find ourselves living a savage, impossible life without education and the protection of the state. Human nature is bad: we’ll prey on one another in the most vicious ways. No doubt the state imposes on our liberty in an overwhelming way. Yet Hobbes’ claim was that these very chains were absolutely crucial in protecting us from one another.
Modern disciples of Hobbes can certainly find supporting evidence for their dark views in the professional sports industry, and some in amateur sports as well.

“I kick therefore I am”
In a time after the heyday of mob football, but before the advent of soccer and rugby, Descartes was thinking:
Descartes began his philosophy by doubting everything in order to figure out what he could know with absolute certainty. Although he could be wrong about what he was thinking, that he was thinking was undeniable. Upon the recognition that “I think,” Descartes concluded that “I am.” On the heels of believing in himself, Descartes asked, What am I? His answer: a thinking thing (res cogitans) as opposed to a physical thing extended in three-dimensional space (res extensa).
While most kickers probably don't put it in words, nor do they need to, they do know/feel that when kicking, they simply are.

“If a kicker hits a goal in the middle of the forest, but no one is there to see it, does it really count?”
While some have recently suggested that kicking is up to 90% mental, Berkeley saw it as 100% mental.
Berkeley believed that nothing is real but minds and their ideas. Ideas do not exist independently of minds. Through a complicated and flawed line of reasoning he concluded that “to be is to be perceived.” Something exists only if someone has the idea of it. Though he never put the question in the exact words of the famous quotation, Berkeley would say that if a tree fell in the forest and there was no one (not even a squirrel) there to hear it, not only would it not make a sound, but there would be no tree.
In modern times, the answer to the question remains no. Even a field goal witnessed by millions sometimes doesn't count - such as if there is an inadvertent whistle, or a last second timeout called by the scheming opposing coach in an attempt to ice the kicker, or if it is simply a preseason game.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Free Agent Specialists 2012

The NFL's free agent signing period begins today, March 13th. Along the way we'll update the following list of specialists as news develops.

Phil Dawson, Cleveland
Mike Nugent, Cincinnati
Josh Scobee, Jacksonville
Matt Prater, Denver
Connor Barth, Tampa Bay
Steve Weatherford, New York Giants
The Giants and Weatherford subsequently came to terms on a five-year deal.
David Buehler
Jay Feely, Arizona
Cardinals re-signed Feely to a two-year contract
Nick Folk, New York Jets
Jets have re-signed Folk. The Jets are expected to bring in a kicker to compete with Folk, like they did with Nick Novak last year.
Shayne Graham
The Seahawks have extended a $1.26 million tender to Hauschka
John Kasay
Adi Kunalic
Neil Rackers
Dave Rayner

Jason Baker
Ben Graham, Detroit
The Lions re-signed Graham to a one-year deal. He'll compete with Ryan Donahue for the job.
Nick Harris, Jacksonville
The Jaguars re-signed Harris. He'll compete with Spencer Lanning who signed a futures contract.
Donnie Jones, Houston
The Texans signed the former Rams punter to a one-year deal. Their current punter, Brett Hartmann, is coming off an injury and is suspended for the first three games of the 2012 season.
Brad Maynard
Mat McBriar
Richmond McGee
Daniel Sepulveda
Matt Turk
Dave Zastudil, Arizona
The Cardinals re-signed Zastudil to a two-year contract
Ken Amato
David Binn
Clark Harris
Matt Katula
Mike Leach, Arizona
Cardinals re-sign Leach to three-year deal
Chris Massey
Don Muhlbach, Detroit
Lions re-sign Muhlbach to one-year deal
Mike Windt, San Diego
Chargers re-signed Windt
Joe Zelenka, Atlanta
Falcons re-signed  Zelenka

Saturday, March 10, 2012

PIFL Kickers - To Drop Or Not To Drop

The Professional Indoor Football League kicked off their inaugural season last night. As always, we've outlined the kickers heading into the games. Several of them weighed in with their thoughts on the drop-kick rule and associated scoring.

Alabama Hammers, TBA

"I have been looking forward to using the drop kick this upcoming season and being able to outscore traditional style kickers. Once I heard about how the points had been changed from 2 to 1 on a drop kick extra point, and then from 4 to 3 on a field goal, I was disappointed. In my opinion, it is very difficult to execute on a consistent basis for the majority of people or even kickers for that matter. I feel it should be awarded with more points like it is in the AFL. Although the points may have changed, my coach still believes in my ability to drop kick as do I, so look forward to seeing many this upcoming season."
Columbus Lions, Ryan Gates (Gardner-Webb)
"If [they remain worth more points], you could use it to your teams advantage. Me personally I don't like it at all, drop kicks are really easy to do but the percentage you make of those are VERY low, I like to just have the one point and move on."
Knoxville Nighthawks, Alex Walls (Tennessee)

Louisiana Swashbucklers, Blake Bercegeay (McNeese State)

"Coming up through the high school and college ranks, a drop kick never crossed my mind. When I learned how integral the drop-kick was in the indoor game, I gave it a try, but have never been able to quite get the hang of it. This is probably mostly due to the fact that no team or tryout I've been a part of has emphasized using the drop-kick to score. My guess as to the reasoning for that would be that most kickers these days are so unfamiliar with drop-kicking that coaches are more likely to trust a kicker to make a routine field goal, rather than take the time to allow the kicker to develop the skill and install it in an offense. To me, converting a field goal where the ball is being held by a holder seems much easier to convert than kicking a ball that has to bounce off of the turf. As a kicker, the rule is: where there is more variable, there is greater chance for inconsistency. With that being said, if Coach Fuller was to ask me to be ready to convert a drop-kick for an upcoming game, I would certainly do everything in my power to help the team get more points. It’s understandable that the rule is still in effect. People come to a football game to be entertained, and a drop-kick would certainly make for an exciting end to a game."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

AFL Kickers 2012 - National Conference

Twenty-five years ago, the Arena Football League began play. One week ago, we previewed this year's kickers in the American Conference. Today, we preview the National Conference kickers.

Arizona Rattlers: Chris Gould
"I've just been working on staying fluid through contact and paying close attention to the tempo during my approach. I hope that it all will come together on March 10th against San Jose and I can help my team win by improving these two areas."
Chicago Rush: Mike Salerno

Iowa Barnstormers: Craig Camay
"During the off season I worked a lot on consistency. Last year I feel that I struggled with making solid contact all the time. Some kicks wouldn't have proper rotation and inconsistent distances. With the field goal only being 9ft wide, as a kicker in this league you need to know what your doing and be fundamentally sound. I would focus on all the aspects. Trying not waste any motion approaching the ball, keeping my head still, locking my ankle and following through we're some of the main areas I worked on."
Kansas City Command: Gary Cismesia
"I didn't do anything different then last year. I just worked on getting more leg strength and being more accurate. I put in more hours into my training this year and did the same stuff I have been doing just more of it. Kicked more balls, ran further, and lifted more weights."
San Antonio Talons: Stefan Demos
"I've been working on a more consistent approach so I got rid of my jab step so I could be a true two-step kicker. This allows me a much more consistent approach, swing, and ball flight. That consistency allows the ball to get better trajectory and a straighter ball, which is crucial to making kicks on the small Arena posts."
San Jose SaberCats: Jacob Harfman

Spokane Shock: Kenny Spencer
"Being in the arena league everyone knows that the goalposts are 9 feet wide. So, during the past two months I have been training out in San Diego with Michael Husted. He has helped me straighten out the flight of my kick, in which we all know will help in the AFL. Also, I have been working very hard on getting my onside kicks perfect. I'm pretty sure you will be seeing a lot of onsides around the league this year."
Utah Blaze: Kyle Brotzman

Monday, March 5, 2012

Toe Tags (Franchise)

Since NFL free agency began back in 1993, sixteen times a kicker or punter has received the franchise tag - all within the past decade, and six of them this year. Who were they? What did they have to say?

2012 & 2011 Phil Dawson,
Cleveland Browns
"It would be the second time around, so I'd probably feel a little different than last time. Last year was so weird with the lockout, no one knew the timetable of anything. This will be a little bit more of a normal-type calendar, normal communications. You couldn't even talk to people last year. I'll probably feel different, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I can't necessarily predict."

2012 Mike Nugent,
Cincinnati Bengals 

2012  Josh Scobee,
Jacksonville Jaguars
"Thank u fans for the support but u should know the franchise tag ISN'T good for players. Long term deal is the objective."

2012 Matt Prater, Denver Broncos

2012 Steve Weatherford, New York Giants 
"Great news for me today!!! So stoked to be back in BLUE!!! Love the NYG fans!!! Here's to another fairy tale year. Let's do it again!!!"

2012 Connor Barth, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2010 Olindo Mare, Seattle Seahawks
"Obviously, I'm very excited to play back in Seattle. I'm happy. I'm on the team for one year. If I perform well again like I did the last two years, then I'll make it my goal to make their decisions hard."

2010 Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh Steelers

2009 Shayne Graham, Cincinnati Bengals
"I appreciate the Bengals' recognition of my value to the team. I would have preferred to enter a long-term market value contract, either with the Bengals or through free agency. I will be committed to helping the Bengals win football games in the 2009 season. I truly appreciate the support of my teammates and the great fans of Cincinnati."

2009 Michael Koenen, Atlanta Falcons

2007 Josh Brown, Seattle Seahawks
"It's one of those things you have no control over. The only thing you can control is how well you play. I did a good job last year getting myself into a position where they had to do something. I'm going to continue to work that way. The franchise tag is quite a privilege for a field goal kicker."

2005 Adam Vinatieri, New England Patriots

2003 Todd Sauerbrun, Carolina Panthers

2002 Adam Vinatieri, New England Patriots

2002 Jason Elam, Denver Broncos
"It took me off the market, to establish where I thought I should be. Just like anyone else, I just want to be treated fairly.... I know the kicker is never going to be the priority, but it would be nice to go ahead and get this done, so I can plan my future and so the Broncos wouldn't have to worry about a kicker for a long, long time."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

AFL Kickers 2012 - American Conference

It may seem like just yesterday that arena football entered the sports scene, but the AFL is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. What better way to celebrate then to talk kickers! The first half of our kickers overview begins with the American conference. 

As with all our indoor league previews this year, some of the players updated us regarding their preparations for the upcoming season.

Cleveland Gladiators: Aaron Pettrey
"The main aspect I've been working on is the smaller uprights so I have just put in a lot more time working on accuracy and becoming more consistent."
Georgia Force: Carlos Martinez
"One big thing I have been working on this off-season has been my power and strength. For me, its important that I increase my power and strength during the off-season and maintain levels during the season. I feel well prepared heading into this season and looking forward to displaying my talents throughout the season."
Jacksonville Sharks: Marco Capozzoli

Milwaukee Mustangs: Joshua Smith
"I was pretty happy with everything last year accept for 50 yard field goals and longer so I put an emphasis on getting more power this off season."
New Orleans VooDoo: Joshua Shene
"Mostly kicking on smaller goal posts and realizing the quickness of the game. There's little room for error when kicking a PAT or FG so I've been working on using the actual goal post as my target when kicking. In the AFL your team can score so quickly you have to be ready at all times. Which means physical as well as mental alertness is a key component in having a successful kick in this game."
Orlando Predators: Mark Lewis

Philadelphia Soul: Phil Marfuggi
"For the upcoming season what I have been working on is Kickoffs. I made some adjustments in the off-season with my plant foot (closer to the ball) and using more quad when I kick. This season I expect better hang time and the ball to hit higher up on the rebound net."
Pittsburgh Power: Taylor Rowan

Tampa Bay Storm: Juan Bongarra