Garoutte ready to take over for mentor

Kicker Alex Garoutte arrived in camp this year slated to become the heir apparent to four- year starter, Thomas Weber. Despite having big shoes to fill, the redshirt freshman says he's eager and confident to he can rise to the challenge.

For Garoutte, a valley native and graduate of Phoenix Brophy Prep, the journey towards replacing Weber started when he arrived on campus last fall. Before the coaching staff elected to have the kicker redshirt, he was able to participate in fall camp and start the learning curve, giving himself a chance to adjust to the daily grind of college kicking while also getting to show off his powerful leg.

"Last year I got a few reps, pretty much two or three every day," said Garoutte after practice Tuesday. "It was good to just get the experience of kicking in front of them (the team).

"Last year I felt as much pressure as I've ever felt with my kicking and I've kicked in some pretty big games before in high school," he added. "But I felt as much pressure doing that than I've ever had. And just kind of knowing what to expect has really helped a lot."

Garoutte took control of the reigns in spring practice earlier this year, as he and sophomore Lee Williams became the only two place kickers on the Sun Devil roster. Despite a somewhat inconsistent spring camp, Garoutte feels it was a positive experience, and one that further allowed him to grow into his new role as starter.

"Spring is where I feel like I benefitted the most, with just being the guy, and knowing what it's going to be like going through (fall) camp," he stated. "And then getting to work on the things I needed to work on over the summer and coming out here and doing it again."

Without a doubt though, the most influential aspect to Garoutte's progression was the tutelage he received from Weber as a redshirt. He says the two practiced often together and that Weber was always willing to provide a little guidance to his young understudy throughout the season.

"Thomas Weber was pretty much an incredible mentor," commented Garoutte. "He was probably the best possible person to learn from. I came into the best possible situation getting to learn from him for a year. He helped with just like little things, like my mechanics. He was very knowledgeable about kicking.

"In terms of the mental aspect, he helped me with that more recently. I kicked with him over the summer in Cincinnati and it was a definite help. I wouldn't be where I am today without his help."

The importance of having a productive kicker on a team with championship aspirations cannot be overstated and Garoutte's development has not gone unnoticed by his teammates. Having spoken to many of the players throughout the fall camp so far, it's obvious he has the unanimous support and confidence of his teammates.

"I've always had confidence in myself but having the confidence of others just makes it that much better," remarked Garoutte. "I mean after every day you kind of see how the team comes together in that moment (kicking). It's pretty much the only time during practice where I feel involved in it.

"And it's always better to leave on a good feeling," he added. "If I have a bad day, it kind of ruins my night. I know it's not supposed to, but sometimes you think about it. But yeah, my confidence level is really good."

One of his biggest supporters in practice seems to be redshirt sophomore Will Sutton. During each kicking session, the defensive tackle can be seen shouting encouragement at his kicker, imploring him to turn in a perfect performance each time out.

"Will Sutton thinks he's my coach," said Garoutte laughing. "It helps though, I love his confidence. I love him back there just yelling at me, giving me pointers. Whether he knows anything about kicking or not, it's just encouraging."

So far this Fall Garoutte has shown much more consistency with his accuracy, putting on a power display during most practices with his booming kicks. Having been here before and already gotten over his jitters about kicking in front of the staff, the kicker says he feels more at ease and comfortable in his role.

"I feel great and like I can put the ball where I want it to go," he said "My leg feels great. I've just been really repetitive, just trying to do the same things. I've got a pretty good routine going now."

Part of that routine started last year while Garoutte was under the wing of Weber. He says his former teammate would give him pointers on how to improve his accuracy and leg strength.

"Because I've been to camp before and I know what it takes and saw Weber do it, I really started kicking a lot," he said. "I'd kick six days a week and take off a day to do legs for weight lifting. I started really knowing I had to get my legs stronger because I know what it takes."

However, over the summer, like many of the players on the team, Garoutte picked up the level of intensity in his training. Organized team conditioning sessions became the standard around campus for most of the Sun Devils who were still in town. That commitment to collectively working towards the same team goal is something that has been missing in Tempe in recent years, and has given many people a reason to believe in this Sun Devil team. "The best way to describe it is we had a week off this summer around the 4th of July and every single day I went up there (Sun Devil Stadium) and we were running stadiums and pretty much the whole team came and did this on their own," said Garoutte. "And the vibe I got was that in years past, that didn't happen.

"We didn't have that drive necessarily that's there this year. I mean, I can't wait for the season."

Most Sun Devil fans can't seem to wait to either. September 1st is the date everyone, players and fans alike, have circled on their calendar. For Garoutte, the opportunity to kick in Sun Devil Stadium is a moment he's been waiting for quite some time now.

"I'm very excited," remarked an enthusiastic Garoutte. "I literally dream about it at night. It's something different each time, but I always dream about it.

"I mean I have a lot of friends that go to ASU and friends just around here. I'm most excited for my parents though, they're going to come down for all the games."

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