True freshman kicker Zach Hocker was nearly perfect last season for Arkansas.
This season he wants to be literally perfect.
"Last year I had three misses and that's three more misses than anybody wants," Hocker said. "You want to go 100 percent and try your hardest with every single kick. Hopefully this year we can up it for sure. I am definitely going to strive for that."
The former Russellville standout – brought to campus as a punter – got the field goal kicking job late in preseason camp and ran with it.
Hocker (6-0, 180) ended up hitting 16-of-19 field goals and was perfect on all of his 56 PATs during the season and was named to the SEC's All-Freshman team.
"It meant the world to me because that was the last thing I expected," Hocker said of being the starting kicker. "I came in as a punter. It was really a blessing. I came in thinking punting might be an option and then Dylan (Breeding) started killing the ball. Dylan was doing great.
"I was behind the whole entire way and I was thinking ‘what am I going to do? Dylan is just a year older than me. Our other kickers are doing really well.
"But fortunately one day, (Special Teams Coordinator) Coach (John L. Smith) gave me the spot and I was just real, real fortunate and everything worked out," Hocker added.
This season Hocker is taking on the addition role of kickoffs and is also working as the back-up punter to Breeding, who joined him on the third team All-SEC preseason squad.
Hocker, who put 58 of his 61 kickoffs into the end zone his senior season at Russellville, takes over that spot that senior Alex Tejada held down last season.
"It's a little bit different just because I didn't do it last year, Alex did it last year," Hocker said. "But I am 100 percent confident that I can do it all."
To aid his development, Hocker went to a camp in Indianapolis that featured several NFL kickers.
"When I came back from that camp, I was hitting them really, really solid," Hocker said. "That just kind of carried over fortunately for me. I am happy where they are right now."
Hocker, who made all three of his field goals in the Sugar Bowl, has also added to development by paying more attention to his flexibility.
"A lot of flexibility work," Hocker said. "I got in the weight room in the offseason and worked on stretching more. I am kind of guilty on just kind of going through the lifting process and not focusing on the stretching until I get out at practice. I really focused on hip mobility and trying to get a little bit more leg swing."
He credits Arkansas coaches with being very cautious not to tire out the specialists.
"The coaches do a really good job of managing that," Hocker said. "We have a Jugs machine. Every other day, we might have a really big kicking day and then they might lay off a couple of days just to let my legs regain its strength, not tire me out. It's like pitching almost. You don't want to go out there and throw too many balls so you arm and your shoulder get worn out."
The longest field goal in Arkansas history is the late Steve Little's 67-yard boot against Texas back in 1977.
Hocker has hit from 65 yards in practice and relishes the opportunity to add on to his Arkansas freshman record of 51 yards.
"If Coach puts me out there, I know I could make a 65-yard field goal," Hocker said. "If Coach puts me out there to make any distance of a field goal, I am determined to make it. If he puts me out there for 65, 68 or 37, I am determined to make it."
That's in part because he is so confident in new snapper Alan D'Appollonio – a true freshman from Arizona - and holder Brian Buehner, a redshirt freshman walk on quarterback.
Those three worked well during last Thursday's closed scrimmage according to Hocker.
"During the scrimmage, we hit a couple of field goals and a lot of extra points," Hocker said. "Everything was good, nothing out of the ordinary by any means. It went really, really well."
Aiming For Perfection
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