After nailing just 66.7 percent of his field goals and struggling from 40+ yards as a true freshman, Nebraska scholarship kicker Drew Brown needed competition. He will get this fall camp from junior college transfer Jamie Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe joined the program this summer after new special teams coach Bruce Read started to recruit him after National Signing Day. While the returner likely has the leg up, Sutcliffe won't be content just sitting and letting the job be handed to Brown.
"It's a walk-on role and how Nebraska sees me fitting in is a bit personal between Coach Bruce Read and myself," said Sutcliffe at the time of his commitment. "I can do it all though. I have made from 65-yards. Anything inside of 50 is my strength.
"I can also do kickoffs. I have been working with Coach Chis Sailor for years and if the coach wants me to put one to the 20, squib or just kick it deep; I can do it. I don't want to sound arrogant, but I have confidence."
In practice on Thursday, the two shared and even amount of reps.
"There is no doubt we have a lot of confidence in Drew," said head coach Mike Riley on Thursday night. "This guy appears to be a stable person and a very consistent guy. I'm excited about that. As we all know, you need to recruit the best guy you can for the competition and depth. And as a coach, you have to leave that competition open.
"We just want to recruit the next best guy we can."
After winning a kicking battle over Mauro Bondi in fall camp, Brown was thrown into the fire as a true freshman. The scholarship kicker connected on 14-of-21 field goals and was perfect on 59 PAT attempts. Brown’s 7.8 points per game ranked seventh in the Big Ten and fourth among kickers.
Also handling kickoff duties after Mauro Bondi’s broken collarbone, you have to wonder if leg-fatigue set in for Brown in 2014?
While not up to Nebraska standards over the last decade, Brown’s 2014 season needs to be graded on a true freshman curve.
BRR projection: Brown will win the job, but it won't be until the final week of fall camp. Don't be surprised if Sutcliffe handles kick-offs.