Tavecchio Putting in the Time

About 40 minutes before practice officially begins, junior PK Giorgio Tavecchio runs down the steps from his locker room and begins warming up. Along with the rest of the kickers and punters, Tavecchio goes through typical warm-ups. Then, the fun begins…

Giorgio Tavecchio sets the ball on the tee, and kicks it. He follows that up with kicking, kicking, and more kicking. After kicking what seems like a ton of field goals and kickoffs, along with a few leg exercises, Tavecchio hears the sound of a whistle, and joins the rest of his teammates for warm-ups. After a long day on the field of Memorial Stadium, practice has finally begun.

Though Tavecchio is entering his third year with the program, this will only be his second spring – note that he joined the team as a freshman merely days before the team kicked off the 2008 season. And with a new spring, comes new opportunities along with new special teams coach Jeff Genyk, who has helped alter the philosophy and technique of Tavecchio's kicking leg.

"[Genyk] expects a lot of us," said Tavecchio. "But he has done a lot for us. He has helped restructure practice a little bit. He has been giving us a lot of drills to do, which I felt with me using them, I've improved a lot. He's really working us hard. He's pushing us to another level, and it's going to make me a better kicker."

Case in point: during the final team period, the kickers run a kickoff drill where the offense and defense form box targets near the end zone. The kickers – 60 yards away – then have the challenge of kicking the ball off with the goal of hitting the boxed zone with as much hang-time as possible. The drill puts a little extra pressure on the kickers at the end of practice, with all eyes watching. On Tuesday, Tavecchio was a perfect 3-for-3 hitting the landing zone, with an average hang-time of just under four seconds.

"The drill is really, really good," Tavecchio says. "That puts a lot of pressure on you and, the more you find yourself in those situations, the better you react and you learn how to deal with it."

"It's a really good tool, and it will help me with special situations in the future."

Even with a new coach and new drills to improve, the one constant during Tavecchio's time at Cal still sort of lingers around – inconsistency. That inconsistency has prevented him from firmly grasping a hold of the kicker spot, resulting in a career so far mired with ups and downs.

As a freshman, Tavecchio was elected to kickoff to open up the 2008 season against Michigan State, merely days after joining the team. Later in the year, Tavecchio would eventually take a hold of kicking duties and not let go. Despite a strong finish in 2008, Tavecchio had to fight for the job with then-freshman Vince D'Amato. As a result, Tavecchio spent all of 2009 splitting time, battling in practice, needing stitches for an in-game tackle, and kicking a game-winning field goal at Arizona State.

But the process starts over for Tavecchio.

Even with a new coach and new drills to improve, Tavecchio also gets a clean slate to work from. Hard work and extra time spent with D'Amato will only assist the team goal: to win.

And young Giorgio knows how to get there.

"Consistency is the key."

This is why he puts in the extra time every practice.

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