What's Wrong with Jad Dean?

CLEMSON – In less than a year, Clemson's Jad Dean has gone from one of the best placekickers in the nation to the one that has had the most missed extra points. The season began with thoughts of postseason awards and the NFL, now just finishing as the starting kicker is the goal.

"Obviously, I'm not thinking about (awards or the NFL) anymore," Dean said. "That's kind of gone out the window."

The problem is that Dean and the coaching staff has no idea why there are so many sudden problems with the kicking game. Each thinks it's something different.

"I feel like I'm a much better kicker than last year, and that's the frustrating thing," said Dean, a senior. "There's no comparison between now and then. I guess now, it's all in my head. …

"I know I can do it, but it's just a matter of doing it. I'm kind of glad nothing is really standing out too much, because if I start thinking about it too much, that's when it goes down hill."

There have been numerous theories surrounding the kicking woes. Everything from the blocking to Dean's get-off time to kicking too low to mechanics to mental toughness has at one point or another been believed to have played a major role in the issues surrounding the kicking team.

Dean said he hasn't seen any mechanical flaws on film and that he's still not sure his get-off time was the problem.

Just last week, New York Jets kicker Mike Nugent unexpectedly called Dean to discuss some of the things that he's seen on television. Nugent liked Dean's technique so much, that he told Dean he was going to try to incorporate some of the mechanics into his kicking.

When a second-round draft pick says that, things can't be all bad.

Then there was the phone conversation on the same day with former Clemson kicker and current 16-year NFL veteran, Chris Gardocki, who told him his get-off times appeared to be fine.

Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden has said that kicks in the 1.40 second range are too slow and that's why they were blocked, not because the protection has been bad. Bowden said he wants the kicks to be around the 1.25 area.

"Gardocki said (Steelers kicker) Jeff Reed's get-off time is between 1.35 and 1.45," Dean said. "(Gardocki and Nugent) said they don't know any kickers in the NFL that are consistently below 1.30."

Dean said that a few games ago, he actually had a 1.10 kick, which isn't good, either. Now what? Where does everything stand now with Dean?

"Maybe the one thing I'm doing is actually going too fast," he said. "It might be subconsciously that I'm trying to get the extra points off real quick so they don't get blocked and it's causing mishits."

There's no doubt that something is wrong. Whether it's Dean or the protection or a combination of the two, something is definitely wrong. But, to his credit, Dean is still confident in his ability to be a great kicker.

"In my mind, I'm still one of the best in the country," he said. "I'm just having some little struggles right now. Look at Alex Rodriguez (of the New York Yankees) and his struggles. Does that make him not a good baseball player? I think it's kind of the same thing in my situation. I just have to stay positive and keep believing in myself, because when I start doubting myself, that's when everything gets bad."

However, when pressed, Dean admitted his belief in his abilities has been slightly shaken at times.

"I guess you could say I've lost a little bit, but it's still there," he said. "It's tough to stay positive. You work hard and get knocked back down. Then you work hard and get knocked back down. Every time it gets tougher and tougher to get back up and stay positive. But I know the team needs me, so I'm going to have to do it for them."

There's one more reason Dean believes so much attention is being focused on his kicking and that's because the team is No. 12 in the country.

"If the team was 1-5, nobody would really even be worried about (the kicking problems), because, obviously, there'd be bigger problems," he said. "But when the team is successful like we are, every little thing gets magnified."

For his sake, hopefully the problem is a little thing and can be fixed real soon. If not, a bad kick could be all that stands between Clemson making the BCS and falling short.

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