Michigan’s kicking competition isn’t exactly a hot topic this spring football season but is one that is sure to heat up come fall.
With 15 practices to allocate time and attention to each specialist, Baxter is taking a specific approach to the process with five months until the season opener in Utah.
“We are not going to do one ounce of team work, meaning put it all together,” Baxter said. “Those guys are individually working on snapping, holding and kicking into nets and working on their swing.”
“The thing is, if you’re going to work on their swing, you’ve got to take the results away,” added Baxter. “Because they’ll worry about the results and I’m not worried about the results, I’m worried about the swing. If we get that right, the results will be there.”
Previously spending time with former Cleveland Indians pitching coach and manager Mike Hargrove while coaching at the University of Arizona, Baxter adopted a baseball like approach to kickers and punters.
In baseball, the bullpen is comparable to the managing duties necessary to keep specialists engaged in the game of football.
“All these people say kickers are different and all that stuff, the only reason they say this is cause they don’t really understand it, but they’re the ones hugging their necks when they put the ball through the uprights and win the game for you,” Baxter said.
“They spin the ball into a net, work mechanics and build them from the ground up,” added Baxter. “That’s what we’re doing here. I’m taking these guys and they’re kicking way less than they probably ever have and we’re rebuilding them from the ground up.”
Perhaps a factor that will alter the eventual result of the kicking competition will be the arrival of freshman Andrew David this summer.
David is a three-star prospect out of Massillon (Ohio) and comes to Ann Arbor following a successful prep career, which included a career high 58-yard field goal make.
“I know Andrew David is coming in the fall and he’s a good player,” Baxter said. “We’re happy to have him coming, but at this point, I have to go under the assumption that I have to coach these players here and make them effective and expect them to win for us.
“If a new player comes that can impact or change that situation, then that’s gravy.”
And according to Baxter, there will be nothing political about the decision on who to start, with no hierarchy between walk-ons and scholarship players.
“The best player is going to play at that position,” Baxter said. “And really, it’s a real easy position to determine because it’s not subjective, I mean, the ball is between the poles or it’s not. The ball is out of the end zone or it’s not.”