That is one of the reasons the Tigers got a commitment from St. Thomas Aquinas High star Charles Byrum, Scout.com's number two rated kicker in the nation.
St. Thomas Aquinas has kicked off 91 times this year and only a dozen have been returned. Some of those were kicked high and short in an effort to pin opponents inside the 20-yard line, which the Raiders have been able to do with those dozen returns amounting to just 99 net yards at 8.2 yards per return.
"Our season is going good," Byrum says as his 12-1 team prepares for the state semi-finals this week against visiting Manatee High of Bradenton. "We are excited about this week's game."
Byrum and his team come into the contest with plenty of momentum. He kicked a 48-yard field goal last week in his team's 38-0 quarter-finals round victory over Coconut Creek. For the season he is 10-13 on his field goals with one of the misses from 56 yards out. He is 64-65 on PAT kicks.
"I am kicking the ball good, really good," Byrum says. "My kickoffs have been going through the back of the end zone."
Byrum, who committed to the Tigers in October, notes that Auburn assistant coach Eddie Gran will be in his home this week for a recruiting visit with the kicker and his family. "I am definitely excited about Auburn," he says.
Byrum will have a great opportunity to compete for a starting job in 2007. The Tigers will graduate field goal man John Vaughn and kickoff specialists Matt Clark. Vaughn is one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top kicker.
"John has had a great season," Byrum says. "I think he is going to win the Groza Award."
St. Thomas Aquinas is having a great season, too. The Raiders have outscored opponents 510-96 and haven't been challenged in the playoffs that include victories over Ely (45-8) and Atlantic (64-0) before last week's shutout of Coconut Creek.
"If we keep playing how we are playing and keep doing our thing, hopefully we will have a chance to win it all," Byrum says.