Ask most Nebraska fans what the number 89.5 means and they can tell you pretty quickly. It's safe to say Alex Henery was a pretty special kicker. If the NFL saying "kickers are a dime dozen" is true, Henery is probably worth about a dollar.
In four years at Nebraska, the former Omaha Burke walk-on was one of the greatest kickers in NCAA history. His 68-of-76 completion rate (89.5%) is an all-time college best. Someone will have some large shoes to fill this fall.
So who will step up in the place kicker's departure? The likeliness Alex Henery can be replaced is about .0001 percent. It's the coaching staff's hope they can just find a guy who will not be considered a liability.
"What I tell our guys is we're not looking to replace Alex," stated Nebraska special teams coach John Papuchis to the Lincoln Journal Star.
Junior walk-on kicker Brett Maher handled the duties during the spring, making three of his four field goal attempts for the Red Team in the Red-White Spring game. His 39-yarder as time expired gave the Red team a 32-29 win.
But can he do it in front of 80,000 screaming fans when a real game is on the line? When Henery walked on the field it was almost an guaranteed three points. Now Huskers fans will have to hold their breath when the ball is being snapped.
"Brett Maher has come along way, both as a punter and kicker," said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini after the spring. "I feel pretty good about where the kicking game is at."
Pushing Maher will be true freshman Mauro Bondi. The Boca Raton, Florida product was ranked No. 10 nationally by Scout.com in the 2011 recruiting class. Nebraska extended an offer to Bondi, meaning they will expect him to play from day one. Kickers and scholarships don't always go into the same sentence.
"Playing early is definitely at the top of my list. I don't want to sit on the bench," said the freshman during the recruiting process back in January.
He will get his chance. Last year, he completed 7-of-11 field goal attempts, stating his misses were from either bad snaps or holds.
Big Red Report's Projected Winner: Brett Maher
It's hard for experience to not win out in this one. Maher was Henery's holder the last two years and knows at least what he has to do at this level to compete. Asking a true freshman to walk into the Big Ten and become automatic is tough, no matter how highly recruited he was.
Bondi has a bigger leg than Maher, so certain situations could arise where the Huskers trot him out. Remember, we aren't even talking about punting or kickoffs, but just place kicking. It's likely both hit the field in some form or fashion.
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