Bloomington – While a handful of fall camp position battles were waged during the last three weeks, one never materialized the way most expected.
Austin Starr's graduation has left a huge void for the Hoosiers at placekicker, and common sense suggested that returnees Nick Freeland, Charlie Klingensmith and Nick Ford would battle incoming true freshman and scholarship player Mitch Ewald for the job. But things didn't go as planned.
Ford wasn't on the initial 105-man fall camp roster, arriving at camp only after Shawn Major-Winston left the program during the opening week. Ewald, meanwhile, was sidelined during the first week of camp, suffering an oblique injury that has kept him sidelined ever since.
"It was disappointing – I was looking forward to kicking with (Ewald)," said Freeland, who generally handled the first-team placekicking duties during camp.
With fall camp now concluded, the end result is a situation that's still a bit muddied. IU Coach Bill Lynch said he's yet to make a determination on who the team's kicker will be in next Thursday's opener against Eastern Kentucky. The plan is to set up some difficult practice conditions for whichever kickers are available during the next seven days and make a decision based off those results.
Despite the uncertainty at the position, Lynch knows exactly what he'll be looking for when those practice sessions are held.
"We want the guys that are going to put it through the uprights," Lynch said.
Unless Ewald can return soon and reinsert himself into the placekicking discussion, the odds-on favorite appears to be Freeland, a redshirt freshman from Indianapolis' Lawrence North H.S. While he hasn't created a huge chasm between himself and his competition, he's been steady since camp opened three weeks ago. And that's the coaching staff is looking for more than anything else.
"Consistency is the biggest thing that coach looks for and that's what we strive for," Freeland said.
Another week of showing off that consistency could very well earn Freeland the job for the season opener. Freeland said he's not trying to think too far ahead, but he admits he's excited at the possibility of being the choice to replace Austin Starr this season.
"I'm thrilled. I came here as a walk-on hoping I'd get a chance. I've worked hard all summer and I've come here and done pretty well and there's a chance I might get out there," Freeland said.
If he does get that chance, he knows he has some pretty big shoes to fill. Starr converted nearly 80 percent of his field goal attempts during the last three seasons (43-of-55) and he was an All-American in 2007. Freeland had an opportunity to work with Starr a year ago and will try to apply what he learned from him when he gets on the field. Freeland said he'll remember one piece of advice in particular.
"If you miss one, forget about it and think about the next kick," Freeland said. "You can't worry about small things. When it comes to kicking, if you mess up it's always something small and you just have to think of those two or three things (when you kick)."
IU Kicker Looking To Seize Opportunity
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