the study of all things kicker related

Monday, April 29, 2013

The 2013 Post-Draft NFC East Specialists Landscape

Following free-agency, the NFL draft, and the flurry of undrafted signings, here is a snapshot of the current specialists in the NFC East:

Dallas Cowboys
  • K Dan Bailey, returning starter
  • K Spencer Benton (Clemson), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • P Chris Jones, returning starter
  • LS L.P. Ladouceur, returning starter re-signed on February 28th
  • LS Charley Hughlett, free agent re-signing in January
New York Giants
  • K Josh Brown, new starter, free agent (from Cincinnati) signing on March 13th
  • K David Buehler, free agent signing on February 13th
  • K/P Jake Rogers, free agent signing on January 26th, released May 12th
  • P Steve Weatherford, returning starter
  • LS  Zak DeOssie, returning starter

Philadelphia Eagles
  • K Alex Henery, returning starter
  • P Donnie Jones, free agent (from Houston) signing on March 25th, probable new starter although he could be challenged by...
  • P Brad Wing (LSU), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • LS Jon Dorenbos, returning starter re-signed on March 13th

Washington Redskins
  • K Kai Forbath, returning starter
  • P Sav Rocca, returning starter re-signed on March 12th
  • LS Nick Sundberg, returning starter re-signed on March 10th

The 2013 Post-Draft AFC North Specialists Landscape

Following free-agency, the NFL draft, and the flurry of undrafted signings, here is a snapshot of the current specialists in the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens
  • K Justin Tucker, returning starter
  • P Sam Koch, returning starter
  • LS Morgan Cox, returning starter re-signed March 12th
Cincinnati Bengals
  • K Mike Nugent, returning starter coming off IR, re-signed on March 10th
  • P/K Quinn Sharp (Oklahoma State), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • P Kevin Huber, returning starter re-signed on March 8th
  • LS Clark Harris, returning starter re-signed on March 8th
Cleveland Browns
  • K Shayne Graham, new starter, free agent (from Houston) signing on April 15th
  • K Brandon Bogotay, free agent signing on April 2nd
  • P Spencer Lanning, free agent re-signing on February 13th, who'll compete with...
  • P T.J. Conley, free agent signing on May 13th
  • LS Christian Yount, returning starter
Pittsburgh Steelers
  • K Shawn Suisham, returning starter 
  • K Danny Hrapmann, free agent re-signing on January 12th
  • P Drew Butler, returning starter who will be challenged by...
  • P Brian Moorman, free agent signing on April 30th
  • LS Greg Warren, returning starter re-signed March 13th
  • LS Luke Ingram (Hawaii), undrafted rookie free agent signing

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The 2013 Post-Draft NFC West Specialists Landscape

Following free-agency, the NFL draft, and the flurry of undrafted signings, here is a snapshot of the current specialists in the NFC West:

Arizona Cardinals
  • K Jay Feely, returning starter
  • P Dave Zastudil, returning starter
  • P Will Batson, free agent signing on April 8th
  • LS Mike Leach, returning starter
St. Louis Rams
  • K Greg Zuerlein, returning starter
  • K Brett Baer (Louisiana-Lafayette), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • P Johnny Hekker, returning starter
  • LS Jake McQuaide, returning starter
  • LS Jorgen Hus (Regina), undrafted rookie free agent signing
San Francisco 49ers
  • K Phil Dawson, new starter, free agent signing (from Cleveland) on March 19th
  • P Andy Lee, returning starter
  • LS Brian Jennings, returning starter
  • LS Kevin McDermott (UCLA), undrafted rookie free agent signing
Seattle Seahawks
  • K Steven Hauschka, returning starter re-signed April 19th
  • K Carson Wiggs, free agent re-signing on February 1st
  • P Jon Ryan, returning starter
  • LS Clint Gresham, returning starter
  • LS Adam Steiner (Akron), undrafted rookie claimed off waivers from Oakland

The 2013 Post-Draft AFC South Specialists Landscape

Following free-agency, the NFL draft, and the flurry of undrafted signings, here is a snapshot of the current specialists in the AFC South:

Houston Texans
  • K Randy Bullock, anticipated starter returning from IR
  • K Jeremy Shelley (Alabama), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • P Shane Lechler, new starter, free agent signing (from Oakland) on March 23rd
  • P Andrew Shapiro (Fresno State), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • LS Jonathan Weeks, returning starter
Indianapolis Colts
  • K Adam Vinatieri, returning starter
  • K/P Brandon McManus (Temple), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • P Pat McAfee, returning starter, franchise tagged
  • LS Matt Overton, returning starter
Jacksonville Jaguars
  • K Josh Scobee, returning starter
  • P Bryan Anger, returning starter
  • LS Jeremey Cain, returning starter who could be challenged by...
  • LS Carson Tinker (Alabama), undrafted rookie free agent signing
Tennessee Titans
  • K Rob Bironas, returning starter re-signed March 7th
  • K Maikon Bonani (South Florida), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • P Brett Kern, returning starter
  • LS Beau Brinkley, returning starter

The 2013 Post-Draft AFC East Specialists Landscape

Following free-agency, the NFL draft, and the flurry of undrafted signings, here is a snapshot of the current specialists in the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills
  • K Rian Lindell, returning starter who'll compete with...
  • K Dustin Hopkins (Florida State), drafted in 6th round 
  • K Chris Koepplin, free agent signing on April 18th
  • P Shawn Powell, returning starter who'll compete with...
  • P Brian Stahovich, free agent signing on April 18th
  • LS Garrison Sanborn, returning starter
Miami Dolphins 
  • K Dan Carpenter, returning starter who'll compete with...
  • K Caleb Sturgis (Florida), drafted in the 5th round
  • P Brandon Fields, returning starter 
  • P Kyle Martens (Rice), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • LS John Denney, returning starter who'll compete with...
New England Patriots 
  • K Stephen Gostkowski, returning starter 
  • K David Ruffer, free agent signing on May 20th
  • P Zoltan Mesko, returning starter who could be challenged by...
  • P Ryan Allen (Louisiana Tech), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • LS Danny Aiken, returning starter 
  • LS Mike Zupancic (Eastern Michigan), undrafted rookie free agent signing
New York Jets
  • K Nick Folk, returning starter re-signed March 15th, who'll compete with...
  • K Derek Dimke, free agent signing on April 12th, released May 12th
  • K Brett Maher (Nebraska), undrafted rookie free agent signing
  • P Robert Malone, returning starter who'll compete with...
  • P Ryan Quigley, free agent signing on April 12th
  • LS Tanner Purdum, returning starter re-signed March 18th
  • LS Travis Tripucka, free agent signing on January 3rd

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Draft Preview: Dustin Hopkins

Draft update 4/27: Buffalo selected Hopkins in the sixth round of the draft. The incumbent kicker on the Bills' roster is Rian Lindell. The team also recently signed Chris Koepplin.

Among the kickers eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is Florida State's Dustin Hopkins. He ranks in the top two in the majority of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from Hopkins's profile page on the Seminoles' website:

2012 Senior Season
  • Lou Groza Award Finalist
  • Walter Camp, ESPN, CBSSports, Pro Football Weekly, Athlon Sports, and Capital One Academic All-American (First Team)
  • AP and SI All-American (Second Team)
  • All-ACC (First Team)
  • Set a new NCAA D1 career scoring record for kickers (466 points)
  • established new NCAA, ACC and FSU records with 88 career field goals...his 88th career field goal in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois pushed him past Georgia's Billy Bennett (87, 2000-03)
  • set a new ACC all-time single season scoring mark
  • single-handedly outscored five of FSU's opponents this season (Murray State 15-3, Savannah State 7-0, Wake Forest 10-0, Boston College 15-7 and Duke 12-7)
  • kicked a career-best 56 yard field goal against Duke
  • converted all five of six field goal attempts of 50+ yards
  • has kicked at least one field goal in 46 career games to set the all-time NCAA record, previously held by Blair Walsh of Georgia (45, 2008-11)
2011 Junior Season
  • near-unanimous choice as first team All-ACC kicker
  • selected as one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award
  • earned CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America second-team honors on the strength of his 3.82 cumulative GPA
  • scored 10 or more points in six games, including a season-high 14 against Charleston Southern
  • boomed 29 touchbacks as FSU led the ACC in net kickoff with a 48.6 average...had at least one touchback in 12 of 13 games and twice posted a season-best five (Charleston Southern, Clemson)
  • chosen as a finalist for the Danny Wuerffel Trophy, presented to the Division I player who best exemplifies excellence in the community, classroom and on the field
2010 Sophomore Season
  • semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award
  • field goal of 55 yards came as time expired in a 16-13 victory over Clemson, which is the longest walk-off winning kick in ACC history...Hopkins' game-winner - which was also the longest field goal in the ACC in 2010 - came after he missed a potential game-winner a week earlier from 40 yards against North Carolina...earned ACC Specialist of the Week honors for his effort against the Tigers
  • matched his career-high, set in 2010 in the Gator Bowl, with four field goals in the Chick-fil-A Bowl which was a bowl record
  • 41 touchbacks ranked second in the country and was the most by an FSU kicker since All-American Sebastian Janikowski in 1999
2009 Freshman Season
  • won the starting job in preseason competition with James Esco 
  • most prolific freshman campaign by a kicker in program history
  • converted four of five field goal attempts to set an FSU bowl record in the 33-21 Gator Bowl win over West Virginia
  • converted his first collegiate field goal attempt from 52 yards against Miami
High School
  • consensus top-rated kicker in the country coming out of high school
  • two-time Texas 5A All-State selection
  • USA Today first team All-American as a senior
  • participated in the Under Armour All-America game


College Stats:
2012: 25 of 30 (83.3%) FGs; 65 of 66 PATs; 140 points
2011: 22 of 27 (81.5%) FGs; 44 of 44 PATs; 110 points
2010: 22 of 28 (78.6%) FGs; 53 of 53 PATs; 119 points
2009: 19 of 27 (70.4%) FGs; 40 of 44 PATs; 97 points

Back In January, Hopkins discussed football and faith:
"In my mind coming into college, I pictured myself having a lot of good moments, but you don't really think of the bad moments in the future. You try not to picture those things happening because sometimes they'll come to fruition just by thinking something like that. I thought a lot about the good, and not so much about the bad, and it's been very interesting....

Sometimes it's hard to see the big picture when your'e in the moment in those tough times. When you can step back and see all the steps and all the little things and the people who had a part in making you who you are in four year period in college, all I can say is that it's very much a blessing."

Draft Preview: Caleb Sturgis

Draft update 4/27: Miami selected Sturgis in the fifth round of the draft. The incumbent kicker on the Dolphins' roster is Dan Carpenter.

Among the kickers eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is Florida's Caleb Sturgis. He ranks in the top two in the majority of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from Sturgis's profile page on the Gators' website:

2012 Senior Season
  • Career 70 made field goals is the most in school history and sixth-most in SEC history
  • Made eight field goals of 50-or-more yards in his career, the most in UF history
  • Has 340 career points, the third-most in school history (11th in SEC history) 
  • 79.5 field goal percentage over his career, the second-most in school history, 10th in SEC history (min. 50 attempts) behind Jeff Chandler (83.8%)
  • SEC co-Special Teams Player of the Year
  • named a CBSSports.com All-American, Sporting News All-American, First-Team AP All-SEC, First-Team Special Teams Coaches’ All-SEC
  • Named a finalist for the 2012 Lou Groza Award
  • Three of his four misses were blocked
  • Was also the Gators’ primary kick-off specialist, netting a 63.0 yard average with 31 touchbacks
2011 Junior Season
  • A First-Team Offense AP All-SEC Named a First-Team ESPN.com All-American
  • Second-Team All-American by CBSSports.com, Walter Camp, Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, Rivals.com and AP
  •  Named a finalist for the 2011 Lou Groza Award
  • Was one of only two kickers in FBS to have made three field goals of 50-or-more yards
  • Averaged 66.4 yards per kickoff with 10 touchbacks
2010 Medical Redshirt
  • Was the primary placekicker in the first four games before suffering a back injury that sidelined him for the final nine games of the season
2009 Sophomore Season
  • Named a semifinalist for the 2009 Lou Groza Award
  • Nailed a career-long 56-yard field goal in the first half against Georgia, while also connecting on a 44-yard attempt…It was the second-longest field goal in school history
  • Made the game-winning field goal in the closing seconds of the game vs. Arkansas from 27 yards out…Also connected on 30 and 51-yard field-goal attempts…Was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week and the Lou Groza Placekicker “Star of the Week” for his efforts
  • Averaged 64.4 yards on 99 kickoffs with 10 touchbacks.
2008 Freshman Season
  • Handled the kickoff duties for the Gators, averaging 63.7 yards on 90 kicks this season, including 12 touchbacks
High School
  • Played in the Under-Armour High School All-American Game
  • First-team Class 3A all-state honoree at placekicker
  • Converted 13-of-25 field goal attempts his senior year and made 63-of-64 PATs
  • Made 8-of-16 field goal attempts in junior year, but six misses were beyond 56 yards…Made 54-of-57 PATs…
  • Also played forward on St. Augustine’s soccer squad and competed for Julington Creek…Two-star recruit by Rivals.com and earned three-star status by Scout.com…Scout.com’s No. 3 kicker nationally


College Stats:
2012: 24 of 28 (85.7%) FGs; 34 of 35 PATs; 106 points
2011: 22 of 26 (84.6%) FGs; 31 of 31 PATs; 97 points
2010: 2 of 4 (50.0%) FGs; 19 of 21 PATs; 25 points
2009: 22 of 30 (73.3%) FGs; 44 of 47 PATs; 110 points
2008: 0 of 0 (0%) FGs; 2 of 2 PATs; 2 points

At this year's NFL Scouting Combine in February, Sturgis talked about weather and job competition:
“We played Florida State and it was practically a hurricane there was so much rain, the field was under water. I think Tebow got all his pictures where he looked like a gladiator with the red all over him. That was probably the worst weather game I ever played in. I don’t believe it was that cold, but the rain was pretty bad....

Obviously you’re going to have to [play in cold weather games in the NFL]. You don’t get to stay in the South the whole time, but I’m looking forward to that challenge....

The margin for error is small because there’s only 32 teams that need your position in the NFL. There’s 32 guys already that are on teams, and there’s probably 20 guys that are veterans that are trying to get back in. You’re definitely trying to prove yourself any time you step out in front of somebody.”

Draft Preview: Sam Martin

Draft update 4/27: Detroit selected Martin in the fifth round of the draft. He joins punter Blake Clingan on the Lions' roster.

Among the punters eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is Appalachian State's Sam Martin. He ranks in or near the top ten in several of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from Martin's profile page on the Mountaineers' website:

2012 Senior Season
  • FCS National Punter of the Year (CFPA)
  • selected First Team SoCon All-Conference punter
  • Nov 12 SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week: perfect 4-for-4 on field goal attempts and averaged 50.5 yards on four punts as Appalachian State topped Furman 33-28 to earn a share of the Southern Conference championship
  • Oct 15 SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week: in Appalachian State's 28-25 come-from-behind win at No. 25 Samford, Martin averaged 48.9 yards per punt on seven attempts. He placed two punts inside the Samford 20-yard line and booted a 60-yarder in the first quarter. Martin also handled the kickoff chores for the Mountaineers and placed four of his five kickoffs in the Samford end zone and forced two touchbacks.
  • Sept 2 SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week: at East Carolina, averaged 45.2 yards per punt on six attempts and only allowed one return. Placed two punts inside the ECU 20-yard line and had a long of 53 yards. Also handled the kickoff duties for the Mountaineers and averaged 61.7 yards per kickoff with two touchbacks.
2011 Junior Season
  • Earned second-team all-Southern Conference accolades 
  • finished fourth in the SoCon and 27th nationally in punting average
  • in the season-opening loss at Virginia Tech, averaged 45 yards over eight punts, including two kicks of 50 yards or more and two downed inside the 20 … named SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week
  • punted just once in the home opener against North Carolina A&T but it was a 69-yard bomb, good for his longest of the season and a tie for eighth-longest in school history … also booted a 51-yard field goal, good for a tie for the seventh-longest in program history, in the win over N.C. A&T
  • versus Savannah State, punting five times for a 47.0-yard average with two fair catches, two kicks of 50 yards or more and three downed inside the 20 yard line … was also perfect on two field-goal attempts, including his second 51-yarder in as many weeks … was named national and conference Special Teams Player of the Week for the performance against SSU
2010 Sophomore Season
  • 31 of his 60 punts were fair caught (51.7 percent), 19 were downed inside the opponent’s 20 yard line (31.7 percent) and only nine were able to be returned at all (15 percent)
  • had seven punts of 50 yards or longer ... downed at least one punt inside the 20 yard line in 11-of-13 games
  • was twice named the SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week — after downing 3-of-7 punts inside the 20 yard line in a win at Samford and after averaging 43.7 yards per kick with four fair catches and two downed inside the 20 in a win over Furman
  • handled kickoffs for the first four games of the year and averaged 65.5 yards per kick (with the ball being received on average at the opponent’s four yard line)
2009 Freshman Season
  • Exclusively handled ASU’s punting and kickoff duties as a redshirt freshman
  • named to the Southern Conference all-freshman team by the league’s coaches
  • helped ASU compile a net punting average of 35.5 yards, good for 19th nationally
  • 17 of his 52 punts had to be fair-caught (32.7 percent) and 19-of-52 pinned the opponent inside its 20 yard line (36.5 percent)
  • recorded his first-career 50-yarder in style by booming a 74-yarder in the waning seconds of come-from-behind victory at Wofford ... 74-yarder is tied for the fourth-longest punt in school history and longest since Nate McKinney also launched a 74-yarder at Wofford in 2003
High School
  • A former soccer standout, played just one year of football as a prep
  • averaged 69 yards per kickoff
  • named all-county following only gridiron campaign
  • four-year soccer letterwinner earned all-state recognition as a junior ... also lettered twice in basketball


College Stats:
2012: 60 punts, 45.9 yard average, long of 68 yards
2011: 54 punts, 40.7 yard average, long of 69 yards
2010: 60 punts, 39.2 yard average, long of 63 yards
2009: 52 punts, 40.0 yard average, long of 74 yards

Back in December, Sam contributed to our Advice to Aspiring Punters Q&A series:
"My best piece of advice would be ALWAYS stay positive and be confident in what you do. When I first started punting, like any kicker/punter, I would have bad days, weeks, or even a month of a slump. It is real easy to get down on yourself and have a negative attitude towards kicking, and the sport in general. I have learned, the best way to overcome a bad day/or slump in general, is to stay positive. Keep working hard, analyze and fine tune your technique and always remain confident. Stay positive and always believe in yourself and your capabilities."

Draft Preview: Jeff Locke

Draft update 4/27: Minnesota selected Locke in the fifth round of the draft. This follows recent speculation that the Vikings were looking to replace current starting punter Chris Kluwe.

Among the punters eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is UCLA's Jeff Locke. He ranks in the top five, including several number one rankings, in the majority of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from Locke's profile page on the Bruins' website:

2012 Senior Season
  • career punting average of 44.23 ranks No. 2 in UCLA history
  • Semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter ... 
  • Named first-team All-Pac-12 by the league coaches, Phil Steele and CBSSports.com
  • Earned first-team all-conference academic team honors
  • Led the Pac-12 kickers with 34 punts inside the 20-yard line (21 at or inside the opponent's 10-yard line)
  • Also recorded 68 touchbacks on his 89 kickoffs, to top the league in that category
  • Selected to play in the Senior Bowl college all-star game
  • earned the Captains Award, the Jack R. Robinson Award for the Senior with the Highest Scholarship, the Paul I. Wellman Memorial Award for All-Around Excellence and the Kenneth S. Washington Award for Outstanding Senior of the Year on Special Teams at the annual team banquet
2011 Junior Season
  • Ranked fifth in the Pac-12 and 12th in the nation in punt average 
  • Named to the second-team All-Pac-12 academic team for the third straight season
  • Earned Tommy Prothro team award for Outstanding Special Teams Player
  • Kicked the first field goals of his career against Texas (51, 49 yards) and added a season-long 70-yard punt
2010 Sophomore Season
  • Named to the Watch List for the 2010 Ray Guy Award
  • Ranked first in Pac-10 and fourth in NCAA in punting average
  • Punter on the ESPN Academic All-District 8 team and the Pac-10 All-Academic first team
  • At Cal, he averaged 48.3 yards on a career-high nine punts (435 yards was also a career-best)
  • Placed three punts inside the 20 and averaged 69.5 yards on two kickoffs
2009 Freshman Season
  • One of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award (the only freshman)
  • First-team Pac-10 All-Academic team selection
  • Named freshman All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com
  • Named to The Sporting News All-Freshman team
  • Averaged 43.63 yards per kick which ranked 16th in NCAA, second in Pac-10
  • Placed 20 of his 70 kicks inside the 20-yard line and had 12 kicks of 50 yards or more 
  • Produced 20 touchbacks, most in the Pac-10, on kickoffs
  • Punted six times for a 48.2 mark at Arizona, including an 81-yard boot 
High School
  • Lettered four seasons at Mountain Ridge HS in Glendale, AZ for coach Bobby Green. Played wide receiver, punter and kicker.
  • Parade All-American ... EA Sports first-team All-American
  • Ranked No. 1 kicker by ESPN ... Ranked No. 1 nationally at punter by scout.com
  • Selected for Under Armour All-America Game
  • As a senior, he was selected All-Arizona and first-team all-state
  • Set school records for most field goals in a season (11); longest punt (71 yards); longest field goal (63 yards, a state record)
  • As a senior, he averaged 43.6 yards on 38 punts with 10 inside the 20-yard line ... Had 47 touchbacks on 54 kickoffs ... Converted 29 of 32 extra point attempts ... Made 11 of 20 field goals, long of 63 yards
  • As a junior, he averaged 43.3 yards on 46 punts with nine inside the 20 ... 33 touchbacks on 40 kickoffs ... Converted all 13 PATs ... Made seven of 11 field goals, long of 43 yards
  • Named All-Region in soccer his last three prep seasons ... As a junior, he was selected second-team All-State and Region Player of the Year.


College Stats:
2012: 77 punts, 43.3 yard average, long of 64 yards
2011: 64 punts, 44.3 yard average, long of 70 yards
2010: 64 punts, 45.8 yard average, long of 63 yards
2009: 70 punts, 43.6 yard average, long of 81 yards

We checked in with Jeff for a look back and a look ahead:
"Looking back on my college career, I hope people say that I helped contribute to some of the success we had and that I upheld UCLA's very strong tradition of specialists. I was very fortunate to have great coaches and teammates during my five years at UCLA that helped me to develop and perform on the field. Many of these coaches and former teammates, such as current NFL specialists Christian Yount and Kai Forbath, have really helped in my pursuit of an opportunity in the NFL. I am looking forward to the end of April to see which team will give me the opportunity to come in and win the job." 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Canadian Kicking, part 2

Our look at the nuances of kicking in Canada continues with commentary from five players of very varied backgrounds:

Rob Maver - born in Brampton Ontario, college Guelph, Calgary Stampeders punter/kicker 2010-present
"The main difference between kicking in Canada and the United States would be the field. It's much wider which produces larger angles for boundary kicking on punts and kickoffs. This also affects the angles we kick field goals at too as the hash marks are considerably further apart. That outside it's essentially the same game; this is why it's not uncommon for a kicker/punter to excel in the CFL then go to the NFL. Lawrence Tynes, Mike Vanderjagt and Jon Ryan are a few recent examples."
Rene Paredes - born in Caracas Venezuela, raised in Pierrefonds Quebec, college Concordia, Calgary Stampeders kicker 2011-present
"Kicking in Canada is very different from the US game. The punting game is very directional kicking instead of hang-time as well as the kickoff part of the game. I believe the kicking game is one of the most important aspect of the Canadian game."
Scott Crough - born in Ballarat Australia, signed as punter by Calgary Stampeders in February 2012
"The coaches have told me to work hard on my directional punts and flatten out my kicks to eliminate the hang time and just line drive it. Instead of the 5 second plus punts I have been doing for the past two years all of a sudden they want nothing more than a 4.5 but with 10 to 15 yards extra distance so that the returner can be stopped but still achieve a good net average."
Nick Setta - born in Lockport Illinois, college Notre Dame, Hamilton Tiger-Cats kicker/punter 2006-2009
"It's even a larger part of the game than in the NFL due to there only being 3 downs and the field being larger. Field Position plays a pivitol role in the CFL and having a big leg can really help control field position. The 3 downs equates to more punting and more big plays with returns.

You can Win a game on a Missed kick. Since if you are tied and you are tied 20/20 and you kick a field goal but it sails wide left or right but goes out of the back of the endzone you will receive a point, which would win you the game. There can be some pretty crazy endings because if Time is about to expire the team defending the field goal would have to set up a returner behind the uprights and hope the ball doesn't go out of the endzone. At the time the kick is missed if the returner can get it before it goes out of the end zone he can't kneel it down because then he would be conceding a point and that would cause them to loose the game.Sometimes they will have a kicker back there as well because you have the option to kick the ball out into the field of play and or run it out of the endzone. Since the endzone is 20 yards deep sometimes running it isn't an option because if you get tackled you give up one point and lose.

You can also lose a game on a punt sailing through the endzone as well. Same rules apply to the field goal and it must be kicked out and or ran out of the endzone. With the crazy winds in Canada and the ability to get points from missing kicks and booming punts through the end zone it really changes the game. On onsides you also do not have to hit the ground you can just kick it on the fly and have someone catch it on the go which makes for a foot to hand pass which can be pretty fun.

Last thing about kicking in Canada.. The ball makes a different sound when it hits your foot. Instead of it making a strong thud sound it makes an "EH" sound!!!"
Justin Medlock - born in Fremont California, college UCLA, Toronto Argonauts 2009-10, Edmonton Eskimos 2010, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 2011
"When I first signed with the CFL I had no idea what the game truly entailed. I just thought the hashes were wider. Little did I know that there were such things as a 5 yard halo on a punt which consisted of a 15 yard penalty, return on missed FGs, kicking out of bounce on a punt would consist of a 15 yard penalty, etc. These were just some of the adjustments that I had to make during my three years up in the CFL. I still remember the first punt I had where I hit it 38 yards with about 4.4 seconds of hang time and I got a penalty. I followed the next punt by hitting it out of bounds. I learned real quick that I needed to learn the game but also make some adjustments on my punting in order for me to succeed in the CFL. It took me about 6-8 games before I totally learned all the rules of the game.

 A lot of kickers have asked me about the CFL and the thought of going up to Canada. First I tell all imports that it is extremely hard to land a job in the CFL being a kicker. I was very fortunate with landing a spot at the right time. I loved playing in the CFL but I also know how hard it is to land a job in the CFL as an import. As an import it is also very hard to keep a job even if you are playing well. In 2010 I came off a game in which I kicked 3 FG's but I was released because the GM traded for a Canadian player. I was picked up off waivers and sat on the bench for the rest of the season. It just shows you that performance is not everything in the CFL for an import. 

For all imports who are able to go up to the CFL they have to first be able to kick/punt/kickoff. The next thing I would tell a player would be to learn the game and adapt to the game. When I say adapt to the game I am talking about how you need to keep the ball at a trajectory on a punt where you don't get a penalty. Some of the hardest punts I had in the CFL were the punts into a 20-50 mph wind where I knew I could not kick the ball higher then 4 seconds. A punt pass is a better word for the punt I am describing. If you can be creative with your punting and be a solid directional punter you can be very successful punting in the CFL. As a kicker I would just say that the hashes are wider but other then that, kicking is kicking. MAKE THE FIELD GOAL!!!"

Canadian Kicking, part 1

by guest blogger Eddie Johnson

editor's note:  We asked the question, "What should the rest of the world know about kicking in Canada?" The following response comes from punter Eddie Johnson - who was born in Newport Beach California, played college ball at Idaho State, and was with several NFL teams between 2003 and 2008. 

So what does that have to do with Canada? More recently he played in the CFL - with the Toronto Argonauts in 2009 and with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2010 & 2011.

First off... it's different than the NFL. The rules and size of the field, require the punter/kicker to have to develop a different strategy for success.

The main rules that change the punting strategy:

Rule - 5 yard halo rule for the punt cover team around the returner.

This is a 15 yard penalty if the cover team breaks it. So hitting the NFL hang-time ball around 40-45 yards just doesn't fly. Because then the cover team has difficulty not entering the invisible halo if you do.


So... it's far better to hit more of a line drive punt and even sometimes hitting a low liner on the ground to get it to roll first (if it hits the ground and the returner grabs it it's only a 5 yard penalty if the halo is broken). Because that now gives your cover team a chance to be successful. I had a few too many hang-time balls last season and it KILLED our net. No bueno.


sidenote: This style of punting goes against what most punters are taught to do. But one has to conform to their environment.


Rule - If you hit the ball out of bounds on the fly between the 35 yard lines it's a 15 yard penalty or the opposing team has the option to back you up 10 yards and punt over. 

Ok, the fields are wiiiiidde in the Great White North.. so this is where it gets good. Now not only can you not freeze a returner with hang-time, or kick the ball out of bounds, but you have to be able do so while still punting directionally. So, it's imperative that you get the ball far enough and close enough to the sideline (without getting it out), because if you don't, NOW the returner has way more field to bring it back with if you don't... lol. Good times. Add in the windiness of some stadiums up there, and this can be very challenging.

Rule - Punting for points or "singles"


Ok... this is wacky. But kinda cool because it gives you an opportunity to possibly win a game as a punter... go figure. If you punt or kick a ball into the endzone and it doesn't get returned... that's a point. That being said, you are trading off field position for that point tho... because the other team can get the ball on their 35 yard line if you do. So most of the time it's far better to try and coffin corner the ball out of bounds within the 20 yard line to goal-line. I know... stay with me.


Rule - The punter is "onside"... so basically if you punt the ball down the field and the returner hasn't gotten his hands on it... you can run down the field and jump on it and recover the ball. Bananas. I almost tore my knee doing this last season.. not cool. But if you don't do it.. you're not Charlie Sheen... you're NOT winning. Be a winner
:winksmiley:

Kickoffs

Rule- If you can hammer the ball out of the back of the endzone (95 yard kick...75 yards just to the goal-line) then the opposing team gets the ball on their 20 yard line, which is great field position for your team. If the ball stays in the endzone, then that's a point and the ball on the 35 yard line.


So if you can, knock the dust off it.


Field Goals


Basically, if need be, you can use training wheels in Canada. Meaning, you can kick off a one-inch tee. I rocked it. Why wouldn't ya... but I do know that some kickers prefer off the ground because they feel it gives them more control. I concur, but I like the casualness of a one-inch tee.


Also, same rule applies for the point. If you miss and it goes in the endzone and isn't returned... boom! point.


You can also kick the ball out of bounds within the 20s for field position as well. So you can obviously get more of a consolation prize every time you kick. Which is nice. There's always an opportunity to help the team. Good stuff.


I may or may not have let some stuff out... but as you can see... kicking in the CFL is actually kinda fun. It keep you on your toes. Every situation is unique depending on the factors at hand and because of the high turnover of possession due to the three downs of play, as a punter and kicker, you get on the field ALOT. And I don't know about you... but I like to play. So I dig that about the CFL. 

 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

NFL Draft 2013 - Kicker Rankings

The NFL Draft analyzers are feverishly preparing and updating their annual rankings of the draft prospects. Not all of them bother to rank the specialists, but a few do. We've compiled several of them to see what the prognosticators think of this year's kicker class. Similar compilations can also be found for punters and long snappers.

NFL Draft 2013 - Punter Rankings

The NFL Draft analyzers are feverishly preparing and updating their annual rankings of the draft prospects. Not all of them bother to rank the specialists, but a few do. We've compiled several of them to see what the prognosticators think of this year's punter class. Previously, we did the same for kickers and long snappers.

NFL Draft 2013 - Long Snapper Rankings

The NFL Draft analyzers are feverishly preparing and updating their annual rankings of the draft prospects. Not all of them bother to rank the specialists, but a few do. We previously compiled several of them to see what the prognosticators think of this year's kicker class. Today we take a similar look at the long snappers. And yes, stayed tuned for the punters.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Kicks, part 2


What is your earliest recollection of kicking a ball 
(any kind of ball)?



Our series on childhood kicking memories continues, with more kickers, punters and coaches.


John Smith, NFL kicker 1974-1983, ProKick Australia
"I can remember my junior school banning me from playing soccer in the playground as I kept knocking kids out with the ball! When I represented the school at soccer - playing as a seven year old with eleven year olds - they told me to kick it as hard as I could!"

Brandon Kornblue, Kornblue Kicking
"I enjoyed kicking footballs and soccer balls at a very young age but I'll never forget my first kick in a football game. I was a freshman in high school playing for the JV team. It was a simple extra point (and it was good), but because it was the first kick I had ever attempted in a football game, it was the most nervous I have ever been on a football field. I played 15+ years as a kicker/punter, kicked in the largest stadium in college football, set several records in the Arena Football League (af2), yet my first kick was the one where I experienced the greatest anxiety."

Paul Assad, Assad Academy
"I used to watch football with Dad and during the commercial I line up a field goal in the backyard and pretend it was the game winner. I was probably seven years old."
 

Rob Maver, Calgary Stampeders punter
"My first kick was definitely an innocent dandelion in a community soccer field when I was four. Shortly after that I remember purposely kicking the ball out of bounds because they wouldn't play me at forward. Thankfully I've grown up since. "

Chris Husby, Special Teams Football Academy
"My earliest recollection of kicking a ball was playing Indoor Soccer in 2nd grade.  We played in a gym on a basketball court on mini soccer goals.  I was a center and forward and we had a pretty dominant team.  I only played soccer for about 4-5 years, so this was always a fun child hood memory I looked back at as a young athlete."

Filip Filipovic, NFL punter 2002, The Kicking Coach
"I started kicking a soccer ball pretty much as soon as I started walking. I lived in my grandparents house with a long narrow hallway that way perfect for practicing long straight kicks. If I did not kick it straight, I risked knocking over a painting on the wall. Outdoors, since I was a chubby/slow kid, I remember that I liked taking penalty kicks with my dad more than running around and actually playing soccer."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Grass or Turf?

Previously we explored the differences between grass and artificial turf (from the old Astroturf to the current FieldTurf). Several NFL kickers discussed their kicking adjustments for different surfaces. This month we expanded the conversation to include kickers, punters, snappers and coaches from various leagues... asking them which they prefer. Turf won the popular vote, while grass garnered lengthier responses.

MODERN GUYS

"Turf, it's consistent, no holes. Usually it's an even surface, rain doesn't change it." 
- Nick Sundberg, Washington Redskins long snapper

"Artificial turf--smooth, level, and doesn't get torn up over course of game."
- Leigh Tiffin, Tiffin Kicking

"Turf - consistent footing."
- Rob Maver, Calgary Stampeders punter 

"I loved kicking/punting on Turf.  Nice and short turf "grass" strands.  Less potential drag on my leg swing!  Although I did love grass in the fact that I used it to mark a small "plant foot" spot before each kick."
- Chris Husby, Special Team Football Academy 

"Turf hands down. You don't have to worry about soft spots on the grass that may cause you to slip."
- Geoff Boyer, former Albany Panthers kicker

"I prefer field turf because you never have to worry about uneven ground, holes, muddy spots, ect... With field turf you get a consistent surface to snap on."
- Kyle Stelter, Sacramento Mountain Lions long snapper

"Field turf.  It gives you a consistent plant and spot every time you kick.  You never have to fight a dirt patch or clump of grass."
-  Tony Yelk, Elite Kicking Solutions

"Field Turf, because it generally means we're kicking indoors."
- Chris Kluwe, Minnesota Vikings punter

IT DEPENDS

"Favorite place to play for the stadium and field (grass) is AZ Cardinals. After that, any turf field because you don't have to worry about footing."
- Ben Graham, former NFl punter

"I’m a grass guy, I like kicking off grass because I feel more comfortable. But now that I’ve kicked on more and more FieldTurf fields now that I’ve been in the NFL, I’m kind of leaning towards the FieldTurf just because it’s more of a flat surface and you never have the bumps and divots that you get in grass fields."
- Connor Barth, Tampa Bay Buccaneers placekicker

TRADITIONALISTS

"Good grass is the best. It's more natural and if you hit a little behind the ball you can swing through the grass and make up for it when turf can stop your swing a little. Bad grass is the worst tho. You can't plant and you can't kick. When you don't trust the footing it's hard to trust your routine. Turf is consistent so that is one good quality it has."
-  Stefan Demos, San Antonio Talons kicker

"I prefer grass because I feel I get better contact on the ball and my plant foot sticks much better than on FieldTurf. Also, I prefer grass because we all grew up on grass fields and the smell of freshly cut grass on a game day is priceless."
- Jared Guberman, Ultimate Kicking

"There is nothing better than good, low cut, natural grass. Knowing that you wont leave half your cleat on the ground if you chunk it a little bit makes for a more relaxed swing. Field turf is really good as well considering footing is never a factor. But well kept grass is the way to go."
- Juan Gamboa, San Jose SaberCats kicker 2011

"Grass: I love the smell of natural grass and it always reminds me of football. Depending on the quality of grass you are kicking on, I believe it's an advantage to kick on grass. One reason is it makes for a strong plant foot. The stronger your plant foot can grab grass, the better your chances of being stable and locked in to swing through the ball. One of the best venues I kicked at that had natural grass was at Auburn in 2005. Their field is so flat and is an amazing surface to kick off."
- Brian Jackson, Team Jackson Kicking

"I think that I have always preferred natural grass, provided it was in good condition.  Even if the grass wasn't perfect, I think that I still enjoyed kicking off of the "real stuff." Having to adjust to bad weather was a challenge of course, but it's football. While kicking for the Bucs, the old Tampa Stadium was voted the best field year after year while it was in existence. Its surface was amazing, even with its high crown.The old artificial turf, basically carpet, was not enjoyable, the traction was too good. My plant foot would not move at all and my foot inside would always slide up to the front, which did not feel good at all. The new field turf is much better, but there can be some issues. First, not all surfaces are the same. Some have longer blades of the fake grass. Plus, when it is new, the rubber pellets haven't settled yet which can cause problems when swinging to kick the ball on a PAT or FG. I know that holders are fond of the new stuff. There is a good chance of getting little rubber pellets in your eyes, up your nose, in your ear and even in your mouth. Let alone all over your arms and legs.Just the smell of natural grass and the fact that if I had to make a tackle, it could be seen on my uniform makes the real stuff worth it me."
- Michael Husted, NFL kicker 1993-2002, National Camp Series

The Grass Under My Feet

“When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled” 
- African proverb
photo by Wackymacs at en.wikipedia

Grass Football Fields
Grass is the stuff that grows naturally and has been around for a long, long time. For purists, it is real (not manmade). It is typically cooler, softer, and more forgiving than the artificial surfaces, which supports the general belief that it “causes” fewer injuries. It is generally more sustainable (environmentally friendly) than the fake stuff, however it does need water, which can be an issue in dry climates. It needs sunlight, which means it cannot grow indoors. It typically requires more maintenance than artificial surfaces. It also does not hold up as well under heavy use or some types of adverse weather.

Grass belongs to the Gramineae plant family, which includes most plants grown as grains, and for lawns and playing surfaces (turf). Commonly used grass types for football fields include Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Tall Fescue, and Bermudagrass, depending on the climate zone in which the field is located. See the following links for additional information on how grass works and on athletic field turf grasses.

Astroturf
The old generation of synthetic turf, Astroturf was one of the brand names; however the term became generically utilized when referring to artificial turf. It was invented by two employees of Monsanto in 1964, and was initially called ChemTurf. The product has since changed owners countless times. In essence, it was a carpet, typically installed over concrete. While it made indoor stadiums a viable venue, its abrasive and unforgiving nature became an issue. Consequently its use declined and the newer artificial turf technologies took hold. In the NFL, Indianapolis and St. Louis were the last to still use Astroturf. They both finally switched over to FieldTurf for the 2005 season.

Fieldturf
The new generation of synthetic turf, FieldTurf is one of the brand names; however it has already become a generically used term. The product more closely simulates grass, as opposed to carpeting. The synthetic “grass blades” are typically made of polyethylene. The synthetic “earth” is made of sand and ground up rubber, or just the rubber bits.

Grass vs. Artificial Turf: Preferences & Adjustments
Exactly how do these different surfaces affect the kicking game? We checked with a few people that currently kick or previously kicked for a living...

Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals kicker
"[FieldTurf]'s helpful because you get better footing, you get consistent footing. On a grass field, even if it’s a real nice grass field, you may hit a loose spot and lose your footing, and that makes it tough to kick and be consistent. Probably the easiest stuff to kick off of is the old Astroturf that nobody has anymore. Sometimes FieldTurf gets thick and you kind of chunk it, like you would hit a golf shot thick."
Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers kicker
"The only difference is in the plant shoe. I wear longer cleats in grass and shorter on turf. Other than that, I do not make big adjustments."
 Joe Nedney, NFL kicker 1996-2010
"Field turf is different than grass, obviously.  Some field turf has longer, thicker synthetic grass blades which makes striking the ball "clean" a little more difficult.  Natural surfaces "give" so if a kicker strikes the ground before the ball, he will make a divot.  Field turf doesn't allow for that.  A kicker's foot may skip off the turf if he hits the ground before the ball, causing a miss-hit.  There is, in my opinion, less margin for error on field turf and striking the ball "clean" becomes that much more important."
 Jeff Reed, NFL kicker 2002-2010
"It depends on the kind of grass and the field you are playing on. It is easier on your body, whether you are a player or a kicker, when you play on grass. At times, when you get mud or sand, you have to adjust your steps because I attack the ball so I don’t want to slip. Field turf is nice because you can always attack the ball whether there is rain or snow. Sometimes, when it snows, if the field turf isn’t heated, there is snow on top of the field, so it is interesting, to say the least. I have had some crummy games dealing with that. Overall, as a kicker, I want grass. If the grass is slick, or it doesn’t hold over an entire season, artificial turf is better for me because I can trust it more."
Ryan Longwell, free agent kicker
"The obvious things with kicking in Lambeau were the wind and the temperature, which were always a factor. Probably a bigger factor that no one really realizes is that the field was always pretty torn up. A lot of the times it was just painted green for TV, and there was really no grass on it. So your footing wasn’t really stable there at times, which was a factor depending on the kick. Kicking in the Metrodome, not having to worry about your foot sticking in the ground is a big advantage....
The biggest [adjustment] is whether or not your plant foot is going to slip or not. On wet or soft grass you have to be able to adjust on the fly if it slips."
Connor Barth, Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker
"To my surprise, when I kicked in the ACC in North Carolina, for the most part all the fields in the ACC were pretty nice. Only one field I think, Wake Forest, was FieldTurf when I played in college. Mostly I kicked all on grass surfaces. And I love kicking off grass, because in North Carolina and South Carolina the ground has a lot of time to grow, they’re just a lot of fun, and the weather is usually pretty mild. Now that I kick in the NFL, the stadiums are only nice for about the first three games or four games. Then they start getting torn up because of the weather and stuff. I love kicking off FieldTurf now.... 

It doesn’t matter how much you play on it, it always stays the same. The big adjustment with the grass in the NFL now is... I don’t know what it is, perhaps there’s more play on it, I guess maybe because the hashes are closer together in the NFL, it gets torn up more. It’s a lot harder to find good spots on the NFL fields I feel. Kicking on FieldTurf, like when I got to kick in Cincinnati and places like that, it was so easy because every spot on the field was nice. It was all flat and there were no disruptions from when people were running around on it. I’m a grass guy, I like kicking off grass because I feel more comfortable. But now that I’ve kicked on more and more FieldTurf fields now that I’ve been in the NFL, I’m kind of leaning towards the FieldTurf just because it’s more of a flat surface and you never have the bumps and divots that you get in grass fields."