X marks the spot

FSU has had its share of quality kickers over the years, from Grant Guthrie to Bill Capece to Derek Schmidt to Scott Bentley to Sebastian Janikowski. Well, it appears Xavier Beitia is capable of joining that list one day. The X-Man was nothing short of remarkable as a freshman last season, and he could be in store for double-duty this year. "A year ago nobody knew what was gonna happen -- if it was gonna be some high school kid, or if I was gonna be able to make the transition," Beitia said.

"Wide Right" discussions aside, Florida State has had its share of quality kickers over the years, from Grant Guthrie to Bill Capece to Derek Schmidt.

Of course, in the 1990s it was Scott Bentley's field goal that lifted the Seminoles to their first national championship (1993) and it was Sebastian Janikowski who in the late '90s set the standard that all Seminoles kickers are judged.

Well, it appears Xavier Beitia has settled nicely into his role as FSU's next acclaimed placekicker.

Beitia, a sophomore from Tampa Jesuit, led the Seminoles in scoring last year with 83 points, becoming only the sixth freshman in school history to do so. He also ranked fourth in the ACC and 40th in the nation with 7.55 points per game. Beitia, nickhamed "The X-man" by teammates, missed only one field goal attempt (13 of 14) and his field-goal percentage of 92.9 (regular season only) ranked third nationally among kickers with a minimum of 10 attempts.

A year older and a year wiser, Beitia now knows what to expect as FSU's season-opener against Iowa State approaches. Beitia, who returned for preseason drills in excellent shape to match an excellent attitude, also admits he's far more relaxed than a year ago.

"As far as game I don't' worry about things as much," Beitia said. "Before a scrimmage a year ago I was like, "Chance (Gwaltney), how much time do I have to get the ball off in?' and ‘Are they gonna block it? ' Now I'm not worried, I just go out there and kick it through.

"I feel a little more confident because a year ago I knew what I could do, but the coaches didn't know what I could do. This year 'm pretty comfortable, well, they know my range, they know what I can do, they're not afraid to put me in, they know I can perform. A year ago nobody knew what was gonna happen -- if it was gonna be some high school kid, or if I was gonna be able to make the transition."

Beitia made the transition.

In fact, the personable Beitia was perfect on field goals over the last six games, which includes the Gator Bowl, and has made 11 consecutive kicks heading into Saturday's opener. He kicked a career-high three field goals against UAB, Virginia and Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl. He also made 46 of 50 extra points during the regular season.

It appears this year Beitia's in store for double-duty, competing with Brett Cimorelli (pictured) for the kickoff duties, too. While Cimorelli probably has the stronger leg, Beitia's kicks have had more height, which gives the coverage unit ample time to fill their lanes and race down field. Kickoffs last year were handled initially by Jesse Stein, who is not on the team this year, and Cimorelli in the Gator Bowl. Of course, all that kicking left Beitia with a fatigued right leg as two-a-days winded down last week.

"Everything's going good, right now I'm just blessed to be able to lift my leg," Beitia said.

"It has been 13 days of just two a days -- kicking kicking kicking kicking kicking -- I'm really sore, but at same point, I haven't gotten weaker. I haven't gotten stronger but it'll help me because once I get a break I'll be getting stonger. This time a year ago I wasn't doing kickoffs. A year ago I was just kicking extra points and field goals. I had a one-track mind. Now I got kickoffs to worry about and it's a lot more kicking. But that's fine."

Beitia also was pleased to hear his name was on the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation's top kicker. Janikowski was the first kicker to win the award in conecutive years (1998 and '99), and his 123 points in 1998 were the most scored in a single season by a kicker in FSU or ACC history. He also matched Capece's record for field goals in a game by nailing five against Maryland.

Beitia admits winning the award would be nice, but that's not a concern. He simply wants to be consistent, just like the great kickers in FSU history, and help the Seminoles erase last year's struggles.

"I was honored to be on that list with all those great kickers. I mean that's one of the goals I set for myself -- to win the award," Beitia said. " But as long as we're scoring touchdowns I really don't care about the award. If I'm 5-for-5 on field goals and we win the national championship I don't care about the award."


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