Bouncing Back

Florida State kicker <b>Xavier Beitia</b> looks and sounds great. Last season -- specifically the missed field goal at top-ranked Miami -- is behind Beitia and the Florida State Seminoles. No longer looking over his shoulder, Beitia is excited about the upcoming season and the potential of the Seminoles' special teams. "I am going to go out on a limb and say if we do what we have to do, I think as a unit we can leave here as the best special teams ever," Beitia said.

There's nothing Xavier Beitia can do to change the kick. His 43-yard miss on the last play against top-ranked Miami last year has been rehashed many times.

Still, Beitia knew he had to change.

After missing only two of 15 attempts before the Miami kick, Beitia missed six of his next 12 tries over the final six games of the regular season. Pointing to fatigue, Beitia was determined to get in better shape and erase last year‘s frustrations.

"It was a feeling of being physically exhausted (last season), which made me mentally exhausted. No matter how hard I focused, my body couldn't do the things I wanted it to do anymore," Beitia said.

"It wasn't so much the Miami game, more like November. I had a bad four games, not like I am accustomed to having. Sitting at home in Tampa this summer, I was like, ‘How can I do better? My form is pretty good. Everything else is pretty good. How can I become a better player?'

"My answer was to get myself in the best physical condition possible."

Mission Accomplished.

Beitia, a sophomore from Tampa Jesuit High School, has dropped 30 pounds (217 to 187) since spring drills. Early to bed and early to rise, Beitia followed a strict workout schedule that focused on endurance with strength. FSU coach Bobby Bowden's message has been oft-repeated this preseason: "There's a little more pop on the ball and it seems to be going further,''

After a slow start this preseason, Beitia says he's finally feeling comfortable. He has a new holder in reserve receiver Joey Kleikini and a veteran snapper in Brian Sawyer, one of the Seminoles‘ three team captains.

"He's a great kicker, (he) hardly ever misses," Sawyer said. "He puts so much pressure on himself and expects so much from himself -- the mental game is all him. A lot of it is media and fans or whatever, but he puts so much pressure on himself, which is why he's such a good kicker."

The personable Beitia is also expecting big things from the Seminoles' special teams.

Chris Hall and Jessie Stein are in a spirited battle for the starting punter's role. Leon Washington returns at punt return and also is in the mix along with freshman Antonio Cromartie at kickoff return. The Seminoles also feature a pair of quality kick blockers in B.J. Ward and Pat Watkins.

"I am going to go out on a limb and say if we do what we have to do, I think as a unit we can leave here as the best special teams ever. In the country and ever here," Beitia said.

"We have punters who are battling it out -- they are kicking about 50 yards, five second hang times all day. I feel good. My holder's good. Brian Sawyer is a four-year snapper and he's always on track. As long as we worry about the little things and pay attention to detail, I can't see why we can't lead the country in everything."

No longer looking over his shoulder, Beitia is excited about the upcoming season. FSU concludes two-a-day practices Friday and its season-opener at North Carolina Aug. 30 is just about an extra-point away.

"Last season was a learning experience -- school, personally, academics, football, everything," Beitia said.

"The good thing about last year is I learned what not to do this year. I learned, you know, hey come game 10 I might be mentally sitting there going, ‘Gosh I'm tired but I learned just fight through it two more months.' I learned how to deal with everything. The good thing is I won't make the same mistakes twice. I know come 8 p.m at North Carolina (Aug. 30), we will be there. Come game day I will be there."

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