UI lands accurate kicker with big leg

THE VANDALS HAVE HAD AN IMPRESSIVE succession of field goal kickers over the years, with 2012 senior Trey Farquhar already taking over as the all-time career accuracy leader (75.9%). Idaho is reloading though, signing 2-time First Team All-Idaho kicker JACE JOHNSON to the 2012 recruiting class. He brings a stunning 88% touchback mark to UI, and talked to GoVandals.net about his decision.

If there is any single aspect of Vandal football that has been consistently solid throughout the years, field goal kicking has to be given strong consideration. Obviously, Idaho has had some exceptional talent at quarterback (from John Friesz in the mid-80s with his long NFL career, to current Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, to last year's 5th round NFL draft pick Nathan Enderle to the Bears), and sent an impressive group of offensive linemen to the NFL (from the great Jerry Kramer of the 60s, to ESPN commentator Mark Schlereth of the 80s, and most recently, 1st round NFL draft pick Mike Iupati to the 49ers). But through the years, field goal kicking is one position that has been generally steady and consistent from year-to-year.

From Tim McMonigle in the early 80s, whose name is peppered throughout the record books, to the great Mike Hollis from the early 90s who enjoyed an All-Pro NFL career, to Tino Amancio who graduated in 2008 and set the all-time career accuracy record. For decades the Vandals have routinely been solid in the field goal kicking department.

And today the Vandals are paced by senior-to-be Trey Farquhar, a three-year starter who was named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List last year and has already etched his name into the Idaho all-time records books:
Single-season records
-Field goals made (18, 2010)
-Tied for second on field goal attempts (25, 2010)
-Fifth on field goal percentage list (.720, 2010)

Career records
-First on field goal percentage list (75.9%)
-Has six field goals of 50 or more yards, which is the most in school history. -Tied for second longest (55-yards) field goal in school history
-Tied for second on field goals made list
-Fourth on field goals attempted list
-Fifth on conversions attempted list
-Fifth on conversions made list
-Fifth on conversion percentage list
He has one season left, and then Idaho will have the task finding an athlete to take over the reins.

Enter Idaho prep standout Jace Johnson, a three-year starter with a powerful leg out of Eagle (Ida.) High School in Boise. Johnson's career with the Mustangs was impressive by every measure:

Senior Year
2011 5A All-Idaho First Team Kicker
2011 Coaches Award - Football
2011 Idaho All-Star Shrine Football Game Kicker/WR
2011 5A SIC first Team Kicker
2011 Distinguished Student Award
2011 Academic Award (3.5 GPA list)
2011 5A State Football Championship runner-up
2011 All Camp Wide Receiver/ Reno Wolf Pack
Kickoffs: 67 of 76 touchbacks (88%) - long of 75 yards
PAT: 57 of 58 (97%) 1 blocked
Field goals: 9 of 11 - long of 42 yards

Junior Year
2010 5A All-Idaho First Team Kicker
2010 SIC First Team Kicker
Kickoffs: 41 of 49 resulted in touchbacks (84%)
-PAT: converted 35 of 38 (three were blocked)
-Season long field goal: 47 yards in a game (55 yards in practice)
Johnson, with his 88% touchback percentage and 82% field goal percentage (long of 42 yards on the season), helped lead the Mustangs to a 12-2 record and the cusp of the 5A State Championship, where they fell 49-28 to Coeur d'Alene.

In mid-December the Idaho coaching staff got the news they had been anxiously awaiting when Johnson made his verbal commitment. And this morning he made it official when he sent in his Letter of Intent to the University of Idaho.

Johnson joins two other prep standouts from the gem state in the 2012 recruiting class, signing along with Gatorade Player of the Year quarterback Chad Chalich and two-time All-Idaho wide receiver Deon Watson, both out of Coeur d'Alene High. All three are poised to make an impact at Idaho, with Johnson setting up to follow in the footsteps of Farquhar (including his plan to grayshirt this fall and compete for the starting job next spring, just like Farquhar did when he joined the program out of Redlands East Valley in California).

So how did Johnson make his decision to play football at Idaho? Read on...

Who at Idaho was recruiting you?
"Mark Criner."

When was your official trip to Idaho and what was your impression?
"I took my trip in early December, and I loved it. My older brother went to U of I, so I had already been here. I love the small town and everything."

What tilted your decision towards Idaho?
"In the summer they were the first offer I had, so of course I was jacked about that. The coaches – Criner – always called me, and we had a good relationship. I was also being recruited by Nevada, Washington, Utah, Northern Arizona, and a couple other schools. I just liked U of I, I liked the coaches and how they treated me. Just everything tilted my decision."

Are you friends with anyone already on the team?
"Not on the football team, but I have a bunch of friends who are up there going to school."

When did you tell coach Akey? What was his reaction?
"It was three weeks ago, after my trip. Mark Criner came down to visit me, just a normal visit and asking me how things are and if I was close to making a decision. I told him, ‘Yeah, I want to commit,' and he was pumped. And right away he had me call Akey, so I talked to Akey and he said I made his day, made his week. He was jacked about it. Then I called my position coach Patrick Libey and same thing."

Is Idaho only recruiting you to kick, or are you being looked at to punt as well?
"Right now they want me to focus on kickoffs and field goals, but right now I'm practicing punting. I've been practicing punting for a couple months now, and they told me if I can get up there and I can punt they'll see what happens. But for right now it's just kicking and field goals."

Do you plan to redshirt this fall? Have you had a chance to meet current Idaho kicker Trey Faquhar?
"Actually I plan on grayshirting this fall. When Trey graduates in December I'll take over his scholarship in January. When I was up there on my official visit I was paired up with Trey, so I spent the weekend with him and he was awesome. He was really, really cool."

Talk about your strengths – what do you do best as a kicker?
"As a kicker my strength is probably kickoffs. I think 82% of my kickoffs were touchbacks. Kickoffs are definitely my strength, because I just have power – I always have, ever since I was a kid. I'm excited to see how the ball will travel in the dome. I haven't kicked in doors much, but we will see what happens. Hopefully I will get a little more distance on that. If I had to work on anything, it would just be more consistency on field goal kicking. I have confidence when I step up to my kick – I feel like every kick I'm going to kick I'm going to make, but you can always work on consistency."

What would you like to study at Idaho?
"I'm general right now, but I'm leaning towards going into the business program."

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