If you listen to Tim Masthay, he makes it sound like he has the easy job when it comes to kicking off.
"I have been fortunate to hit the ball well so far this year. But I have 10 guys up there who are great covering kicks. That gives me confidence and somewhat of a free run just to go after the ball because I know those guys are going to cover it no matter what happens," said Masthay.
Of course, it's also easier to cover a kickoff when odds are it will go out of the end zone as Masthay has done this year.
Kentucky coach Rich Brooks takes great pride in personally working with kickers -- and timing everything they do. He's always insisted Masthay had a special leg and now the senior kicker-punter is proving he does.
He was one of the nation's best on kickoffs last year, and has gotten even stronger this year as shown by his 78-yard kickoff after a safety in the Louisville game.
"Masthay is stronger and more mature. He is one of better workout guys on our team. His technique in the punting end is much better now," Brooks said. "The strength and technique has improved a little on the kickoffs, too.
"He has always had an unbelievable leg. He has as much talent as any punter or kicker I have ever been around as far as ability to go to next level. He should get a look (in the NFL) if he stays consistent."
After three games Masthay has put 12 of 19 kickoffs into the end zone this year. Kentucky exits this weekend's tilt against Middle Tennessee leading the SEC in kickoff coverage on the season averaging 51.6 net yards per kickoff.
He says one reason for his success is that he has kept his leg fresher the last two years since establishing himself as UK's kicker in 2006.
"I have kept my leg fresh. The strength coach has done a good job of getting us stronger in the off-season, too," Masthay said. "My legs were always tired that sophomore year. I thought I had to kick, kick, kick in the summer or I was missing something.
"Now I don't kick near as much in the season as I used to, either. The coaches do a great job of keeping me fresh. That has played a role in my kicking this year. Just getting more confidence helps, too. There are all sorts of things that can help. I just hope it can continue."
Masthay says the security of having a job makes the mental approach easier, too.
"I am not competing for a job in the season like I did before. I can back off and just go at it hard the few reps we do during the week and be ready on game day," Masthay said.
He's not been surprised by his success because he felt he always had the potential to excel.
"A year and a half ago and they (the NCAA) moved us back to the 30 (for kickoffs), so I knew I had to go to work on this. I knew I had some untapped power in my leg. I went to work that summer and saw what I could do," he said. "My junior camp I was kicking off well and saw I could hit the ball pretty good. Then I had a solid year last year and became even more confident. It has just carried over and hopefully will continue to get even better."
Confidence helps Masthay
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