Consistent Kutch Making Push at Kicker

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn won many of its close games last season with the play of the special teams from the trio of John Vaughn, Kody Bliss and Matt Clark. With their graduation, a new set of kickers and punters must emerge before the Sept. 1 opener against Kansas State.

At kicker, Ross Gornall came out of spring as the favorite, but strong-legged incoming freshman Wes Byrum was expected to give him a run for his money. Both Gornall and Byrum have had solid preseason camps, but Zach Kutch has been the most accurate so far.

"I was 30 for 33," Kutch says coming into Saturday's scrimmage, "and with today I'm 33 for 36. I'm real pleased with what I've done. I still have a lot of improvement ahead of me and for the first time in two years I feel healthy. I'm looking forward to big things."

It's a four-kicker race for the starting job with Graham Sutter, a true freshman walk-on from St. James in Montgomery, also in the mix.

"Wes has got a real strong leg and it was his first time kicking in the stadium with a wind," Kutch says. "He'll be fine. He was 2 for 3, Ross was 1 for 2 and Graham was 0 for 2."

Kutch has been the most consistent kicker this preseason when the Tigers work on field goals.

Kutch started his career at Auburn as the kickoff specialist in 2005 before Clark emerged and took over those duties for two seasons. Kutch redshirted in 2006 and is a sophomore this season. Byrum, who is also getting work at punter with Ryan Shoemaker sidelined with a hamstring injury, is the odd's on favorite to handle kickoffs this season, but Kutch hopes he can claim duties on field goals and extra points.

"I hope so, but it's a long road," he explains. "If the coaches think I'm the one then I'll go from there and keep working. I'm not worried about it at all. I've been here learning for two years from John being on the backburner, so I'm just going to be quiet, do what I do, focus on myself and put it in God's hands and the coaches' hands. Whoever is the best is going to play. That's what it's going to come down to in the end.

"I've struggled with injuries and a lot of stuff off the field," Kutch adds. "I've finally got it all put behind me and I kept on working hard this summer. I had a great summer work in."

Kutch says that during his time at Auburn he's added between five and 10 yards to his field goal distance without losing accuracy or trajectory.

"I'd say from about 53 and in," he says of his comfort distance. "I know I'm a lot stronger. The biggest thing in college is not how far you kick the ball, but how accurate you are and how much height you get. In the SEC you've got to have a lot of height. When I hit the ball I'm pretty high compared to most of the guys out there. I think that's one thing I have up on them. Wes has an incredibly strong leg and I'm sure he could go out there and knock the long ones down. It might be a rotation in the games, but I don't know yet."

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