Hardin Leads Pack of Elite Kickers at Kohl's

Whitewater, WI- Never question Austin Hardin's competitiveness... Hardin, who enters his senior year at Atlanta (Ga.) Marist High School as the No. 1- ranked kicker in America, and is committed to play his college football at the University of Florida, made a clear statement last weekend at the 12th annual Kohl's Invitational Scholarship Kicking Camp held at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

After Nick Rose had launched kickoffs of 87 yards with a 3.9 second hang time and 85 yards with a 4.09 hang time, it was time for Hardin to show his stuff. Down to his final kick, Austin Hardin banged an 88-yarder with an amazing 4.22 hang time, the top kickoff in the competition featuring the camp's elite senior kickers.

That kick, which propelled Hardin to the top overall kickoff average for the 3-day camp, along with strong showings in both field goal kicking and punting, reaffirmed Hardin's No. 1 national ranking. The results also secured Hardin one of the two kicking spots for the Under Armour All-American game set for Jan. 4, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.

"I wanted to prove I was in the number one spot for a reason," Hardin said. "One of my big goals besides playing SEC football was playing in the Under Armour game. I love competing with the best and these guys helped bring out the best in me."

Joining Hardin in the Under Armour All-American game will be Ross Martin of West Jesuit High School in Akron, Ohio. Martin, who committed to Duke University earlier this summer, posted the top field goal kicking statistics at the camp, nailing 23-of-27 kicks from distances of 40-to-55 yards.

"I'm absolutely thrilled and humbled to get picked for the Under Armour game, especially when you look at who I'm competing against," Martin said. "I've been coming to these camps since after my freshman season and this is the best set of kickers I've ever seen together."

Jamie Kohl, the director of the camp which drew a record 410 placekickers, punters and long snappers, praised both Hardin and Martin and the overall quality of the talent.

"Austin Hardin was the star of the camp," Kohl explained. "He did about what I expected out of him. He's been working on his punting and it really showed. Ross (Martin) is the most game-ready field goal kicker in the country. He's a guy I trust that when the pressure is on, he'll make the kick.

"In certain aspects this was the deepest camp we've ever had," Kohl added. "The younger kids are getting better and better each year."

In addition to Hardin and Martin, other Class of 2012 athletes named to the All-Kohl's Camp team were Roberto Aguayo (Florida State commitment), Nick Jordan (University of Texas commitment), Devon Bell (Mississippi State commitment), Nick Rose, Nathan Knuffman, Bryant Myer, Ryan Hawkins, Sam Foltz, David Reisner and AJ Hughes.

Hardin ranked No. 1 in kickoffs with an average distance of 76.92 yards and a 3.96 hang time average, followed by Jordan (74.08, 3.96), Bell (72.17, 4.02), Rose (73.17, 3.84) and Aguayo (73.33, 3.71).

Martin hit all three of his pressure kicks from 40 yards out on the final day of camp to finish with 29 of a possible 33 points in the field goal charting, Knuffman hit 21 kicks and scored 27 points to finish second followed by Danny Hamilton and Hardin with 20 makes and 26 total points.

Bell and Myer were the top punters. Myer edged Bell for the top spot during the final of four punting sessions used in the overall scoring by averaging 50.66 yards and a 4.79 hang time on his last five kicks after Bell had taken the lead in the third session with an average of 51.5 yards and a 4.57 hang time.

Topping the Class of 2013 kickers was Sean Covington, who converted 20-of-27 kicks, including all three 40-yard pressure kicks for a total of 26 points. Michael Geiger and Spencer Smith each converted 17-of-27 kicks from 35-to-50 yards and finished with 21 total points while Danny Stirt nailed 16 kicks, including a pair of 55-yarders, to finish with 20 points.

Jimmy Hutchinson was the leading Class of 2013 punter, and sixth overall in the camp, finishing his best session with a 46.13 average and 4.33 hang time, including a 60-yard punt with a 4.77 hang time.

Bryan Holmes topped the Class of 2013 kickoff charts with a 71.42 yard average and a 3.84 hang time, and joined Hutchinson and Covington on the All-Kohl's Camp team.

"At the end of the day the colleges are looking for guys who have strong legs and can really hit the ball," Kohl noted. "We had a bunch of guys here who can do that. The coaches know we bring together the best set of potential scholarship kickers at this camp and these guys lived up to their billing."

Especially Austin Hardin.

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