the study of the kicking components within sports

Sunday, September 1, 2013

FCS Kickers & Punters 2013

A random sampling of just a few of this year's specialists at FCS colleges:

Liberty University, specialists
"Last year, the Flames saw some fresh faces join the team at some key special teams positions, starting with kicker John Lunsford and punter Grant Bowden. The pair was left with the tough task of replacing an All-American kicker in Matt Bevins and a two-time all-conference punter in Mike Larsson. Lunsford and Bowden made the most of their freshman seasons, both earning Big South second-team all-conference honors. Lunsford ranked second in the Big South in field goals (0.89 per game) and third in field goal percentage (7.50 percent/8-of-12). Four of his eight freshman field goals were for 40 or more yards, including a season-long 50-yard field goal at Coastal Carolina. Bowden got stronger as the season progressed, finishing the year by grabbing the last two Big South Special Teams Player of the Week awards. Bowden, a transfer from Virginia Tech, ranked second in the Big South by averaging 39.4 yards per punt (60 punts, 2,362 yards), while nearly a third of his punts pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line (18). He also had six punts sail 50 or more yards. Centering the ball to both Lunsford and Bowden was three-year starting long snapper Richard Wright. The redshirt senior has had a banner career at Liberty that includes All-America honors in 2011 and All-Big South first-team accolades the last two seasons."
Northern Arizona University, punter/kicker Andy Wilder
"In 2012, the player who led the Lumberjacks in points was not a wide receiver or a running back; it was punter/kicker Andy Wilder. It is also not a coincidence that Wilder led the nation in yards per punt with a 46.3 average. He had a total of 25 punts go for 50 yards or longer. Wilder's longest punt of the season went for 71 yards versus Southern Utah. In addition to his phenomenal punting ability, Wilder is also a pretty good field goal kicker. Last season Wilder made 38-of-39 PATs for a total of 68 points. 'I think Andy has a good chance of being a great punter,' said head coach Jerome Souers. 'He's better than he was last year. Andy is a great weapon for us due to his consistency'."
Old Dominion, kicker Ricky Segers
"This year going into camp I was slated to be the backup to one of the most statistically accomplished kickers in FCS history, Jarod Brown. He is going into his senior season and I am going into my sophomore season (with a redshirt to spare), but our competition was a close and exciting one. I worked tirelessly this off-season on my strength, consistency, and height on field goals. In the end, everything has paid off. My coaches have noticed my improvement, and though Jarod will be the starter due to his proven track record as an extremely successful kicker, I know that my coaches and teammates have utmost confidence in me. Whether I have an opportunity to play this year or not, I am confident that I will be successful as the starting kicker for ODU for the next two or three years." 
Indiana State University, punter Jordon Stangler
"ISU coach Mike Sanford knew it would be tough to replace Lucas Hileman, but the task became even tougher when Australian recruit Rhys Felton — recruited in January’s class — was not able to become eligible. It left Sanford in a bind. So he turned to Jordon Stangler. The Surprise, Ariz. native played at Eastern Arizona Junior College in 2012. Indiana State was not on his radar until the Sycamores’ staff gave him a call. 'I got hurt out of high school and ended up at a junior college. Out of nowhere the offer came from ISU. I understood the chance was there to play right away. Not that I’m afraid of competition, but this is all that I had. I took it and I’ll run with it,' Stangler said. Stangler averaged 36.1 yards per punt at Eastern Arizona and was second-team all-conference. Stangler acknowledged that he has 'big shoes to fill' and said he’s revamped nearly everything about his punting since he arrived with the Sycamores. There’s one adjustment he feels he won’t have to make. 'Coming from a junior college, I feel like I have the experience and that I can play this speed,' Stangler said."
James Madison University, specialists
"James Madison University has five kickers and/or punters listed on its roster, and two of them are local athletes. Handley graduate Graham Sharples and Stonewall Jackson graduate Juan Luna both have bright futures with JMU. Sharples is listed at the top of the depth chart for the punter spot, while Luna is just getting his feet wet and learning all about the JMU program. Sharples has been waiting patiently for the past few years, and JMU coach Mickey Matthews said they have plenty of confidence in him. 'Graham Sharples has always been in the mix at place kicker and punter,' Matthews said. 'Graham has always been good. Many times in practice, we've had competitions, and I've thought Graham Sharples could be kicking for a lot of teams in the country." Sharples, a redshirt sophomore, has been behind JMU redshirt senior Cameron Starke for the last few years. Starke had to have his knee scoped, and Matthews said he's wasn't sure if he would be ready for the season opener. If he's not, either Sharples or Connor Arnone will get the nod."
University of  North Dakota, specialists
"UND will start a redshirt freshman at long snapper and a true freshman punter. Brandon Larson, a linebacker, has handled the long-snapping duties, while Mitch Meindel is expected to punt as a rookie. Larson was thrust into the role when underclassman Taylor Grant left the program. UND has typically been strong on special teams. North Dakota has blocked 20 kicks in the past two years. But the former strength is now a concern. 'Special teams are big for me right now,' Mussman said. 'If we can control the special teams part — not get faked out or have a punt blocked — I like where our team is at.' If Meindel was to falter, UND’s backup punter is unconventional. North Dakota would go with 6-foot-1, 253-pound starting inside linebacker Ben Peters. One of UND’s only proven players on special teams is senior kicker Zeb Miller, who’s currently the most efficient kicker in UND history (36-for-48 on field goals)."
University of North Carolina at Charlotte, punter  Brandon Strupp
"'But as good as things went for Strupp at Concord – he was an all-conference selection in 2010 – he longed for home. 'There wasn’t really a main reason to leave,' Strupp said. 'I guess you could say I wasn’t comfortable and it wasn’t working out for me. And I just came home.' That homecoming will allow Strupp to be a part of Charlotte 49ers’ history, as he’ll be the starting punter when they play Campbell on Saturday at noon in their inaugural football game. 'I had a great experience (at Concord) for two years, but I’ve got another opportunity to play football for Charlotte,' Strupp said. 'I’m just here trying to make the most of my opportunity.' That chance came after Strupp attended a tryout camp in September of last year. 'He jumped off the page,' said Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert, who doubles as the 49ers’ special teams coach. 'He just came in here and I thought, ‘Wow, we’ve found one in that guy.’ I’m really excited he’s here'.”
Southern Illinois University, punter Austin  Pucylowski 
"The man everyone in the Saluki locker room refers to as 'Pooch' is a junior and hasn't decided where he plans to attend medical school just yet. However, he currently has a 4.0 GPA and is on track to graduate next December, a semester ahead of schedule. He said he'll most likely adjust his course load to graduate in four full years, though. With nine years of medical school and residency ahead of him, he's certainly in no rush to finish his education. Becoming an orthopedic surgeon will take precision and accuracy, two things for which a punter also aims. Pucylowski has been just that with a net punting average in the top 15 in the nation. Although he gives all of the credit to his coaches and teammates for preventing any big returns, he has been placing punts right where they belong. Pucylowski has punted 57 times in 2012, and the Salukis lead the nation with the fewest punt return yards surrendered with 27 total return yards. He is also averaging 40.9 yards per punt. Where did he learn to kick like that? Well, that runs in the family too. 'Punting was just a side job,' said Pucylowski, who also played tight end and briefly left tackle in high school. 'My brother got me into it. I just kept working at it. I was never the fastest kid on the team so this was my way to get to a bigger program.' His brother, Adam, was a punter for Division III North Central (Ill.) College, where he is currently an assistant coach working with the defensive line and special teams."
 Appalachian State University, kicker Drew Stewart
"Former North Gaston High standout Drew Stewart was named one of five captains this season for the Appalachian State football team. In a vote of teammates, Stewart was chosen along with senior quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson, junior defensive lineman Ronald Blair and senior wide receivers Andrew Peacock and Tony Washington. Stewart is a senior placekicker and 2009 North Gaston High graduate. After spending two seasons at Marshall, including the 2010 year as a kickoff specialist, Stewart is entering his third season with the Mountaineers, who open their 2013 campaign on Saturday at Montana at 9 p.m. Stewart has converted 51 of 53 extra points and 14 of 20 field goals for 93 points in two seasons for ASU, helping the Mountaineers to a pair of 8-4 seasons."
University of Rhode Island, specialists
"At the kicker spot, the Rams will be going with a dual threat once again this year. Junior Dylan Smith will handle the field goals and extra points, while fellow junior Connor McHugh will man the kickoffs. Smith was five for seven in the field goal game in 2012, with a long of 38 yards. His PATs were a little sloppy though, going just 10-12. If the offense can improve this season, Smith should get more opportunities to convert points for the Rams. At punter… well, URI finally has an actual punter this season. Tim Wienclaw filled in last year, but he will now play his natural position (defensive back) exclusively. That’s because Rhody has landed Anthony DiPaula, a transfer from Rutgers with two years of eligibility remaining. He averaged over 43 yards per punt in high school, and also cranked kickoffs with a 93 percent touchback rate. We’ll have to see if he takes over for McHugh in that duty as well."
Weber State University, punter Tony Epperson
"The senior and all-conference academic has grudgingly accepted his role as Weber State opens its 2013 season at home Saturday against Stephen F. Austin. He doesn’t like it, but it is better than not playing at all. And, anyway, when Epperson hurt his knee after six games last year, he was the nation’s leading punter at 48 yards a kick. Not too bad for someone who has never taken punting seriously — until now. 'I’m still going through it, honestly,' said Epperson about the mental adjustment. 'It’s weird. I miss it. I’ve played the game my whole life.' An arm injury during spring ball was the final straw on Epperson’s playing career on defense. In six games in 2012, Epperson had 42 total tackles, an interception as well as a forced fumble and fumble recovery. 'When you’ve got a 6-4, 220-pound pretty good athlete, you like to see him out there,' WSU coach Jody Sears said. 'When it comes to field position now, he’s an unbelievable weapon. So we’ve got to focus on that.' As for kickers’ reputations for being a bit squirrely, Sears said, 'Hey, I’m a little squirrely. That cat right there is a true ballplayer'."

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