McAdams' Punting Back to Normal

Dealing with a sophomore slump last season, Blake McAdams never lost his faith in his punting abilities. After all, McAdams had proven himself in high school and in his first college season, the Ripley, Tenn., native earned SEC All-Freshmen honors.

As a rookie in 2005, McAdams averaged 41.9 yards a punt, only to see his average drop to 38.2 last season. So McAdams decided to go camping in the offseason, taking a trip to Philadelphia for a collegiate kicking camp.

"I went to a camp in the offseason, right outside of Philadelphia at LeHigh University," said Blake McAdams of his offseason. "I did a lot of things there that helped me. I just wanted to forget about last year and put it behind me. I had to get ready for my junior year and avoid having another bad season."

All the while, McAdams knew he could return to his normal punting form.

"It was tough (last year) just because I knew that I could do it," said McAdams of his sophomore slump. "It is tough when you go out there not performing at a level where you think it should be.

"As far as bouncing back this year, I think it's just knowing that I have done it in the past and now I go out there and do it."

McAdams has been "doing it" in State's first seven games this campaign.

Entering Saturday's contest at West Virginia, McAdams ranks sixth in the SEC with a 41.1 average.

However, head coach Sylvester Croom noted that McAdams' desire to keep booting punts further got him in some trouble early in his career.

"Blake has the ability to be an excellent kicker," said Croom. "But I think he was so worried about distance. Every time he hits a real good one, he wants to get even more. That is a typical, long-ball driver. 350 ain't enough, you have to get 351, and I can see that in his punting."

But now Croom and the Bulldogs are getting distance and more importantly, hangtime from their junior punter.

"We gave him a specific target," said Croom. "We want 40 yards and 5-second hangtime. We get the hangtime and low and behold, he's getting a little more distance.

"We gave him the idea that the ball has to go 40 yards and hang in the air somewhere between 4.5 and 5 seconds. We do that and the direction is right, then we will be okay. And Blake has really improved with that."

While McAdams' has gotten steady in both aspects of punting, he points to a mental factor for his increased numbers this season.

"Instead of hitting them long every time, we try to get the hangtime and let the coverage get down there quicker," said McAdams. "That might be one of the keys to this year, but I don't know if it's that or I've gotten more confidence as the season as gone along."

Following his prep career at Ripley High School, McAdams chose the Bulldogs' program after flirting with rival Ole Miss.

McAdams knew the game would be different at the college level. But he expected to come in and contribute right away, which he did as a true freshman in 2005.

"I really did (expect the success)," said McAdams. "I punted about that average in high school, maybe even a little better. Last year was really unexpected and a down year. I have never punted like that before.

"But I did expect to come in and perform well. I didn't have any set stats I wanted to reach. I just wanted to go out there and do the best I can."

During normal punting formations, McAdams stands all alone with 11 guys trying to block his punt.

While awaiting the football from Bulldog deep snapper Aaron Feld, McAdams doesn't worry about all that. He just focuses on the same routine he's performed since the first time he ever punted the pigskin. And so far, it's worked wonders this season.

"I really don't have anything, just concentrating on kicking it pretty much," said McAdams. "I have done it so long and every time I go through the same routine. I really don't think about catching it much anymore because it's an everyday thing and something you do a million times. It has become second nature to me."

McAdams has seen his role increase this season, particularly with the Bulldogs' offensive strategy. With State's offense geared around the ground game and taking advantage of field position, McAdams has been solid with short punts.

McAdams has put nine punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, including the critical and career-long 73-yard punt in the 19-14 victory at Auburn.

"It is more pressure and more fun, knowing that I am a bigger contributor this year," said McAdams. "I know I can make a difference. At South Carolina, we pin them deep and get the back in good field position and score. Then against Tennessee we did a pooch punt and got the ball back in good position and scored.

"Even the Tulane game and the big punt at Auburn, those are some games where I have contributed a lot. Field position plays a big role in every game."

McAdams attempted to play a pair of roles early in his college career.

McAdams also played for head coach Ron Polk and the Diamond Dogs in 2005, and was a solid player at Ripley High School. However, that one season of baseball kept McAdams away from turning his entire focus to the gridiron.

"I just decided last year to focus on punting, especially since I had that down year," said McAdams. "I just wanted to put more time into it. "I do miss it, though. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and go with what you think you are better at in the future."

McAdams especially missed the diamond last season, and for good reason.

"I definitely did last year when they went to the (College) World Series," said McAdams. "I think I would have played some last year and Coach Polk told me I would have played some. Sure I look back and wish I would've stuck it out. But sometimes you get so much on your table that you can not take it all."


Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. He can be reached by email at pdjmsu@yahoo.com.


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