Renewed Focus On The Kicking Game

With the departure of Jeff Monken to Georgia Southern, Coach Charles Kelly has taken over the responsibilities of running the special teams. As was case last season, he'll be assisted in the various phases of special teams by other coaches on the staff.

The spring practices have been a time for the kickers to once again audition for jobs. Scott Blair returns as the incumbent field goal kicker and Coach Kelly has been looking at him and the other kickers on the squad. Kelly is looking for consistency from the kickers. "Scott's hitting the ball good," said Kelly. "He was 2 of 3 today and we've got to be better than that." Chris Tanner was also 2 of 3 and is working on getting the ball up.

Leg strength has not been an issue with Blair. Accuracy has been the problem in the past. "We've done some stuff to work on that." When it counts, Kelly is looking for that assassin's mentality. Coach has given him those opportunities and that's what they'll be looking at the remainder of the spring.

Coach Kelly has narrowed the kicker list down to Blair and Tanner in order to get Blair more kicks. Blair has also done kickoffs in the past but Coach Kelly is not averse to finding someone to get the job done on kickoff even if it means using a second kicker. "We're definitely going to have a guy that can get the ball downfield on kickoffs."

The kick coverage teams have improved over the past few years has more talent has become available to work on those teams. "The biggest thing to me in coverage is distance and height." Kelly knows that every ball is not going to go in the end zone. Speed is the one thing that he's looking for on the coverage team. "The more speed you can get out there and guys that can get people on the ground that is going to be important." In a perfect world, Kelly is looking for a combination of both things.

The team in the past has tried different types of kicks to improve the coverage. Kelly realizes that even the NFL kickers don't kick the ball in the end zone every time. "Sometimes a change in the kickoff, even when you have a really good kicker, if you kick it in a different direction, it changes the blocking angles and gets them off-balance." A little change every now and then is not a bad thing in Kelly's eyes.

The focus this spring has been primarily on Scott Blair. While he feels spring is going well, he feels he's missed a few that he probably shouldn't have missed. "The auditions put us in as game like as we can and it gives us some experience."

Kicking field goals and handling kickoffs may still be a dual role for Blair. "I'm working a lot on my kickoffs now trying to get them back to where they were my freshman year." Blair feels he's getting back to that point but if someone beats him out then they deserve it but he's not going to let it go easily.

Scott is still going through the process of working with kicking coaches that have tutored him in the past. "I talk to Mark Feuerbach from Calhoun and I work with Charles Sawyer during the summer and some in the off-season." They have helped Blair and it's something that will continue through the summer.

The kicking auditions will continue into the fall, Whether or not they redshirt the incoming scholarship kicker Justin Moore will be up to Coach Paul Johnson. "They're all going to compete and I think that's good."


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