Training for Triple Duty

Three competitions, one constant. Junior Kyle Brindza looks to win the lead role on kickoffs, field goals, and punts for Brian Kelly's 2013 Irish.

There's a former record-setting placekicker. There's a current record-setting placekicker. There's a former starting punter. There are two experienced kickoff specialists. And there's the constant: Kyle Brindza.

Notre Dame's kicking corps ranks as one of the deepest in the nation, but if Brindza has his druthers, there'll be a host of backups watching one man doing the heavy lifting.

"Of course I want to do all three," said Brindza, a relative lock for kickoff duties and the front-runner for kicking and punting chores. "I love competition, that's what helps me get better. You need it day-in and day-out. If there's competition, that pushes you and brings out the best in competitors.

Brindza last season set a Notre Dame record for field goals made (23) and attempted (31). Neither is necessarily a positive sign as three-pointers are often the result of failures to cash in for the almighty seven. His competition for the lead place-kicker role former freshman phenom Nick Tausch, he of the 14 straight to set a new Notre Dame mark in 2009.

"I think (the kicking game) is shaking out pretty good," said head coach Brian Kelly. "Pretty good competition in preseason camp between Tausch and Brindza. I really wanted an open competition between Tausch and Brindza for kicking, although as we all know Brindza did a heck of a job last year. But to bring Tausch back, I wasn't gonna bring him back unless I gave him a chance to unseat Brindza.

"Secondly, I wanted Brindza to focus on punting. So, I kept it wide open and today will be our final evaluation before we go into next week on the kicking job."

Brindza punted poorly in the 2013 Blue Gold Game, but that'll be a moot point after he bangs his first 40-plus harder vs. Temple, a likely reality after a summer spent traveling punting circuits to hone his fundamentals.

"The spring game didn't go to well but I worked my butt off and finally figured out the true punting form," said Brindza of his summer work. "If I mis-hit a ball it's (now) still going to go somewhat far, and it's because I have the proper mechanics.

"That's just working with (Bob) Diaco every day. I've long had drilled in my head what field goal form is, but now its just drilling the punting. That's what he works with us each day, drilling on mechanics. He isn't concerned with what (each) ball looks like. As long as you have the mechanics, you'll be able to hit a good ball. If your mechanics are good and you hit a bad ball, it's still going to be a (decent) punt."

"Kicking, I'm able to go out and (snaps his fingers). Punting is different. You have to focus on everything at all times. It's not as natural."

His competition for the lead punter's role is former Wake Forest starter and 5th-year senior transfer, Alex Wulfeck.

"Brindza and Wulfeck, those are the guys that have been battling it out for that," said Kelly of what was a three-man competition that included preferred walk-on Andrew Antognoli. "I think both of those guys have shown that we can get the job done on the punting end as well."

Numbers Crunch

As with the 2010, 2011, and 2012 competitions, the lead place-kicker will be determined largely by August's statistics.

"I'll have all the numbers, we'll start crunching the numbers," said Kelly. "We had a lot of kicks, a lot of live kicks. We'll start to factor that in. Both those guys had a lot of kicks relative to field goals and we'll get a better feel for that."

Tausch lost the lead role in 2010 following a 2009 season in which he hit 14 of 17 attempts. The victor (and walk-on at the time) David Ruffer set a new standard, hitting 18 straight (and the first 23 of his career including a spot duty in emergent relief of an injured Tausch in 2009).

Two years later, Tausch beat out Brindza for Week One, but another undisclosed leg injury -- the second of his Irish career -- knocked him out of action for a Week Two matchup with Purdue. Brindza won that game with a chip shot in the final 11 seconds and after drilling a pair of late field goals (including a 47-yarder) to put Michigan State on ice one week later, never relinquished his duties.

Brindza timed his eight misses well, erring on two kicks in a game just once (vs. Brigham Young) and was notably clutch in road wins over Oklahoma (3 for 4 including two in excess of 43 yards) and USC (5 for 6 including a momentum-seizing 52-yarder to end the first half).

"There's pressure on kickers. It's the same as being a quarterback," said Brindza. "You're dealing with the defense and coaches (scrutiny) and hype. For me, I apply my own daily pressure: working on every skill necessary to get better. That's what I do every day."

Brindza has already begun his preparation as a triple threat and a 12-game run that includes November contests in cold weather cities South Bend and Pittsburgh.

"The biggest thing for me is getting treatment. I'm in there every day with the trainers," he said. "Its probably weird to see a kicker in the training room every day but I work my butt off to stay as healthy as I can."


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