COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- By rule, kickers and punters are creatures of habit, following their routines to a "T" so as not to foil some small detail that may affect their in-game performances. But Brad Craddock is not your typical kicker.
The Aussie booter, who is now a junior at Maryland, was reared on Australian rules football and had to make more than a few adjustments -- including learning how to kick with pads on -- when he decided to try his leg at the American game. Then, after a tumultuous freshman campaign in College Park, Md., Craddock changed his approach, as well as his mindset, once again. The 6-foot, 180 pounder bounced back with a solid 2013 campaign last season, but for the third time in as many years Craddock is shaking things up.
"I have a totally different program right now than last year," said Craddock, who nailed 21 of 25 field goals and 37 of 38 extra points last season. "I'm trying to get my body more healthy, because towards the end of last year I lost a lot of leg power. I was just worn out and pretty sore. So I'm trying to do more endurance-based stuff now to keep my legs going."
Which means … what exactly?
Well, for one, Craddock said he's ramping up the leg work in the weight room. Then, on the field, he's forcing himself to "activate" all his lower-body muscles in order to generate maximum power.
"So basically if I'm working on my right leg I'll tense my left leg through the entire period when I'm kicking. It's to make sure everything in my legs is working at the same time," Craddock said. "I'm making sure my plant leg is tight and taught and ready to go as I kick instead of allowing some muscles to relax."
Evidently Craddock began this new routine just recently. He said it might take him six weeks or more until he masters the procedure and begins to notice evident changes.
"It's killing me at the moment; I'm pretty sore," Craddock said. "But that's because I just started, and I'm hoping in a few weeks I'll be feeling pretty good. And [with lifting], it's a pretty light weight at the moment, but I'm hoping to build that up."
Craddock had better pick up the pace, because redshirt freshman kicker Adam Greene has shown signs of busting out this spring. The incumbent starter, meanwhile, hasn't been quite as effective as last fall, according to head coach Randy Edsall.
"We probably haven't kicked as much this spring as some other springs, but [Craddock] missed one the other day and we just have to get him consistent and the operation down," Edsall said. "Right now Christian Carpenter is our snapper and we have the other guy [Nate Adams] coming in, so we have to take care of that. But I was hoping [Craddock] would be a little more consistent this spring. He wasn't as accurate as I'd hoped he'd be."
The Terps' junior didn't disagree with his head coach, but he didn't seem overly concerned either. Craddock said it's all a matter of working out a few kinks and he'll be good to go by the time the 2014 campaign begins.
"It's just a process thing and making those small adjustments. I have the base of my technique down; it's just the little things in your head or your leg or your plant you have to hone in on," Craddock said. "It's just getting more compact and keeping everything small. I want more easy technique instead of things going all over the place.
"But my main thing, like I said, is more leg endurance. I can kick it back from 55 [yards] out, but I want to be able to keep that up for the whole season."
Craddock does have something to build off of this time around. When he first arrived in 2012, Craddock was thrown into the fire as a freshman and naturally had his share of struggles. He converted just 10 of 16 field goals and ended up missing two extra points, forcing a temporary removal from the starting lineup.
"Freshman year was definitely hard, and then I didn't have a great camp last year either," Craddock said. "I was pretty nervous. But what I do is I pray before I kick every ball. I take my steps, I calm my mind and then I just sort of black out, and that helps me a lot. It's all about doing that same process every time, and eventually it's just routine.
"Sometimes, depending on what I was having trouble with the week before – swinging my arm, staying through the ball – I'll concentrate on that a little bit, but mainly I'm doing the same thing every time. Practice or games, it doesn't matter."
The 2013 season didn't exactly begin auspiciously, however. Although Craddock nailed all three of his field goals against Florida International, he missed another extra point, prompting fans' grumbles.
But to Craddock's credit, he refused to sweat the wayward chippee and didn't miss a point-after the rest of the season.
"It was funny, missing that [2013 extra point] was different than the first year. My first year I was like, ‘Oh man, what did I do?' I wasn't sure why I missed," said Craddock, whose 21 made field goals were an ACC best. "But when I missed last year I kind of rolled my eyes and said, ‘You're an idiot.' I knew exactly what I did wrong and wanted to get out and kick the next one, whereas the year before I was almost nervous. You never want to miss an extra point, but you learn from those kicks."
In fact, Craddock said he's learned more from his misses than his makes. While his high watermark last year was a 50-yarder against West Virginia, Craddock more vividly remembers his four missed attempts.
"Those are the ones that kind of stick in your head and you try to learn from," Craddock said. "Like the 35 yarder I missed against Wake Forest, you can't miss those. That one really annoyed me, but it happens. You just have to look at what you did wrong and work to correct it."
This year, Craddock is hoping most of his kinks are worked out. Of course, he'll have to adjust to kicking in those cold, windy, pressure-packed Big Ten stadiums this time around. Which could inevitably mean even more changes ahead.
"Obviously my leg will be tighter and the ball won't go as far in some of those stadiums," Craddock said. "But you just have to deal with that. But it's been cool the last couple months, because there's been so much snow I've been able to kick in those conditions. I was able to make a few adjustments because of that.
"I went out when the field was just covered in snow, and I was pretty good to about 40 [yards out], and then after that I was slipping a bit. It's going to be interesting if we face those kinds of conditions next year, but I'm looking forward to it."
Craddock isn't about to use stadium conditions as an excuse for performance, however. Regardless of where he's kicking, Craddock is looking to improve on last year's 84 percent conversion rate.
"I'm hoping to at least get into the 90s [percent] this year – that's the goal," Craddock said. "Obviously you want a perfect score, but no one's going to be perfect. You just have to go out and kick your best, and if you miss, shrug it off and be ready to go out there again."
For Craddock, It's All Pop and Power
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