New Players In Friedman Derby

One of the most potent legs in the kicking arena this season is Andrew Friedman from UMS Wright Prep in Mobile. He has been on the top of the Gators recruiting board for kickers all season but now that a new staff is in place his status is a bit in limbo, allowing some other schools to step in and make their moves.

One of Florida's newest and most potent competitors for Friedman is the University of Alabama. Friedman is a legacy to both Florida (father's side) and Alabama (mother's side), so the Crimson Tide holds a lot of appeal for Friedman. Andrew also has many friends enrolled in Tuscaloosa.

So what does Coach Mike Shula and the Tide staff have in mind?

"They've asked me to walk-on," he said. "I guess that's what you call a preferred walk-on. I have an official visit to Alabama on the fourteenth of January." It seems that the Tide has made Andrew feel very comfortable in the situation going on at UA and made them a significant player for his services.

Coach Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia has also stepped into focus.

Andrew said, "The West Virginia coaches met with me today at the school. They talked a lot about an offer. They said they were going to offer a kicker and it sounded like I was the front person that they were looking at. They asked what I would do if they were to offer."

The two other programs that have recruited Friedman the hardest --- Auburn and Florida ---- have been a little quiet recently. However, that shouldn't be taken as a sign of disinterest. The Tigers have been busy causing the BCS problems by beating Tennessee again in the SEC championship in Atlanta. The Gators have had their own, well-documented distractions recently.

"I haven't really talked to Auburn," he said. "I do have an official visit set up. That is on the twenty-first [of January]."

As for Florida, "We sent them a tape today," he said. "I haven't really talked to anyone from Florida. I called Coach Locksley and left him a message."

A new player in the Friedman derby emerged Thursday when the newest member of Coach Ron Zook's staff at the University of Illinois called.

"Coach (Joe) Wickline called me today from Illinois," said Friedman. "He said he really didn't know what his situation was with kickers there, but he had a list of people he wanted to call when he got up there. I was really hoping he would stay [at Florida]."

For some time now Friedman has been honing his kicking skills with famed kicking coach Doug Blevins. Coach Blevins has been weaning Andrew off of a tee all year and the transition appears to be complete.

"I've been doing pretty well," he said. "I've been working a lot with out a tee. I made one from 58 [yds] and the next day Coach Blevins came out and worked with me on it and I hit a 55 [yds], and it was towards the end and I was a little tired. It came along a lot faster that I thought it would."

As I have talked about in previous articles on Friedman, people obsess over linebackers and quarterbacks, but the unheralded kicker rests in relative obscurity. The Gators are in serious need of good kicking next season as seniors Matt Leach and Matt Piotrowicz are graduating. The new staff needs to take a serious look at Andrew for next season. A new tape of his accomplishments has been sent to the new staff.

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