Ben Sherman/Inside Carolina

Weiler Atop PK Depth Chart

Nick Weiler has moved ahead of Freeman Jones in the position battle.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Larry Fedora told his radio show audience on Tuesday that he had a feeling who would start at placekicker next Thursday night against South Carolina, but declined to share that bit of information.

Redshirt freshman Freeman Jones, who is competing with junior Nick Weiler for the job, may have spoiled the surprise earlier in the evening.

“Right now I’m second on the depth chart behind Weiler,” Jones said after practice. “He’s been kicking really well, so I can’t have any complaints there. I just need to have some more good reps before we get going.”

North Carolina made just 6 of 13 field goal attempts – with a long of 30 yards – in 2014. Weiler was 5-of-8 on the season with all five coming from inside 23 yards. The Fairfax Station, Va. native was also 35-of-37 on PATs.

Weiler has one of the strongest legs in the country and ranked second nationally in kickoff distance in 2014, averaging more than 64 yards per boot. With the change in his form, he believes this strength will carry over to his place-kicking game. His offseason regimen placed an emphasis on improving his accuracy.

“This offseason has been a lot of flexibility, a lot of accuracy, stretching, yoga and a little bit of the mental side,” Weiler said. “That all helps with accuracy.”

Weiler also made adjustments to his form and technique, and his flexibility has allowed him to “get higher on the ball.”

“I’m very confident, so I’ll probably pick a number farther than I’m consistent with,” Weiler said when asked about his range. “I’m good from 55 and in, and from 55-60 is okay.”  

Jones arrived at UNC with All-American honors and high expectations. He redshirted in 2014.

“I’ve been working on being more consistent,” Jones said. “I feel like every ball I hit is going to go 50 yards, some might go farther, but if I can hit where every ball goes straight and 50 yards, I can’t complain with that.”  

A stable kicking game is something North Carolina sorely missed in 2014, and Weiler hopes special teams return to a role of prominence for the Tar Heels in 2015.

“We’ve worked really hard in the offseason to become a weapon for this team,” Weiler said. “Part of our mission statement of UNC football is special teams are game changers, and that’s what we’re going be this year.”

Fedora agreed about the offseason improvement in the placekicking game.

“This camp has been tremendous,” Fedora said. “Those guys have done an unbelievable job. I’ve got a lot of confidence in what they’re doing. Just today, at the end of 2-minute [drill], we had to kick a field goal to win and they hit a 52-yarder to win it today. It’s been very solid all of the way through camp.”

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