Kicking Consistency Is Goal For McAdams

There's the working script provided by an outside expert that he follows each day's informal kicking drills. Then there is the self-prescribed regimen Blake McAdams uses to conclude these summer afternoon sessions. "To end on I try to do five perfect punts. If I don't get five in a row I start over. And sometimes it can take a while!"

Happily, as this off-season winds down and pre-season approaches McAdams isn't having to stay quite as late on the practice field to string those five flawless efforts together. The junior is getting closer to the sort of efficiency—whether in style, distance, and placement—needed to give Mississippi State a much-improved punting game in 2007. And, for McAdams to live up to the sorts of expectations raised when he was an All-Freshman SEC punter in 2005.

So, then, what makes for a ‘perfect' summer punt? With no coaches around and only himself, or maybe a special teams comrade around, it's up to McAdams to judge for himself. He says at this point of off-season numbers don't factor in, such as distance or hang time. "It's just one that feels good, that looks good. Because the more you can do that the better your punting is going to be."

Besides, the perfect-punt period is only the personal part of McAdams' afternoons, when he heads out to the field following the supervised summer work. No, folks, Mississippi State specialists do not get ‘special' treatment when it comes to lifting and conditioning.

"I know probably everybody thinks we don't do anything, we do exactly the same things everybody else does. It's no different than what I did at defensive back." So hold off on the non-athlete cracks, alright? "We still get that but it's not true. They joke with us a lot, and in (season) practice we don't work as hard but we're out there just as long. And you always try to look busy, at least!" For his part McAdams still looks every bit the promising DB he was out of high school, a solid safety-size 190 that he wants to maintain.

But more than that the two-year starter intends to have a big '07 booting the ball. He averaged 41.9 yards as a rookie, then slipped to 38.2 yards in 2006. His rate of dropping balls inside the red zone was almost identical but McAdams struggled more in mid-field with distance and direction alike. That's why he came up with the perfect-punt theme this summer, as a gameplan for the coming campaign.

"My consistency was way down last year. I mean, it wasn't great as a freshman but it was way down last year. I think as the season went on I just lost confidence, I don't know. It was actually kind of like being a batter being in a slump the whole year. This year I'm going to be out of it, I know that."

He has extra reason for improved self-assurance after doing some extra work this summer in the form of attending a kicker's camp in Philadelphia, PA., and getting tutelage from a former NFL punter who specializes in such instruction and correction. McAdams and placekicker Adam Carlson both went to the camp at Lehigh University and got one-on-one work to boost both technique and confidence.

No, McAdams isn't too proud to ask for advice. "Oh, I'm definitely willing to learn anything I can, anybody who has been there and done it." He also brought back personalized practice plans for the summer. "I've got some new drills I do and it's a lot more technical stuff. Used to I'd just go out and kick, now I have a focus on whichever drill I'm doing. And while I'm kicking I have certain things to do. Like coffin-corner kicks, or directional kicks, straight, whatever.

"I start out by getting loose, stretching, things like that. Then I have four core drills I've just started doing after going to the camp. I work on my drops a little bit, then kicking on a line, then just kicking straight down the field. And then I'll set up four cones for directional right and left and do those." And of course conclude with those five ideal attempts. McAdams has the rare luxury among football athletes of being able to practice his job in game-style at any time and unaided.

Usually though there are specialist teammates joining McAdams of an afternoon, whether to ‘exchange' punts or go through placekicks (McAdams is a holder for Carlson). They can critique and correct each other, or just encourage as needed. Kicking after all is at least as much of the mind as the foot.

"We have a schedule we go by during summer, work three or four days a week and the closer we get to starting practice we get a little more intense with the snappers and stuff," McAdams says. There's also a new kicker in the club with freshman Eric Richards on campus for July. "I don't know if he's going to be punting a lot or just kicking, I think his main focus is kicking," McAdams says. "But it'll be good to have competition, it will help push me and make us all better."

And he truly wants to be at his best in '07, so much so that McAdams has gritted his metaphorical teeth and hang up the baseball cleats to focus entirely on his scholarship sport. It wasn't an easy call, he admits, "But it was my decision. I had a down year in football and decided I had to spend more time getting this down. And it would be the year they went to the World Series! You get hot, you get hot!"

Hopefully McAdams will enjoy a hot streak, hot season even, kicking the pigskin away this fall. He doesn't have to be perfect, just consistently reliable to be the specialist Mississippi State needs in an aspect of the game that must improve if 2007 is to be anything like what these Bulldogs are starting to expect of themselves. Yes, summer optimism is normal any where, any year, yet in his third time-around McAdams sees changes for the better.

"We're working hard and getting ready. I think it's going to be a great year, everybody is looking forward to it and it just seems everybody has a focus this year, on working hard and getting at it."


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