No Love

IrishEyes' No. 5 ranked position group heading into August camp: the field goal unit.

Note: Each position is ranked according to my view of the groups entering the 2010 season. I've accounted for 2009 performance, apparent spring improvement, 2010 developed depth, and my own projection for 2010 (with an emphasis on the starters) as the determining factors.

For our No. 1 rated position unit and an explanation of the rankings, click here.

No. 2 Wide Receivers

No. 3 Outside Linebackers

No. 4 Running Backs

Field Goal Unit

  • IrishEyes' 2010 Pre-Camp Rank: No. 5 (behind TE, WR, OLB, RB)
  • 2009 Pre-Season Ranking: No. 9 (of 11)
  • 2009 Post-Season Ranking: No. 3
  • Highest ranking I can envision at season's end: No. 3, if the unit wins two games with late kicks and is similarly consistent to last season, they'll be widely recognized as a key to the 2010 season.
  • Lowest ranking I can envision at season's end: No. 12 – even previously successful kickers can mentally check out at any point (John Carney in '86; Nick Setta following the first month of '02, come to mine).

Of note: Notre Dame kickers David Ruffer (5-5); Nicholas Tausch (14-17); and Brandon Walker (13-17) have connected on 32 of the team's last 39 field goal attempts (82 percent) dating back to mid-season 2008.

Pre-season National Acclaim: None

Position Coach: Defensive line coach/special teams coordinator Mike Elston. Elston has spent the past 11 seasons tutoring college athletes with a primary focus on the defensive line (he spent one year as a tight end coach and one season as a linebackers coach). Elston has served as Brian Kelly's special teams coordinator for the last three seasons at Cincinnati and held the same role for Kelly at Central Michigan in the pair's final season (2006) with the Chippewas.

Starter: 6'0" 190-pound sophomore Nicholas Tausch (14-17 FG, long 46, 27-30 PAT; set a program record as a true freshman, connecting on 14 consecutive field goals, which broke the former mark held by Mike Johnston since 1982)

Backups: 6'3" 210-pound senior Brandon Walker (Career: 20-36 FG, long 48, 61-62 PAT; DNP 2009: back injury); 6'1" 176-pound senior walk-on David Ruffer (Career: 5-5 FG, long 42, 9-11 PAT).

Incoming Depth: Nothing for 2010; verbal commit Kyle Brindza (6'2" 195) is expected to pledge to the Irish program on national signing day, February 2011.

Quote to Note: "Notre Dame Kickers...We Hate You Too" – rallying cry T-shirt worn by Irish kickers in the latter half of the 90s.

Strengths

Tausch showed the ability to bounce back after missing a chip-shot at Michigan (his first career attempt) by drilling his next two attempts in the Big House…Ruffer was perfect in relief last year, including a clutch 42-yard overtime boot vs. Connecticut; Ruffer has accounted the program's only two touchbacks of the last three football seasons…Walker nailed 13 of his final 17 in the second-half of the '08 season with one of the misses the direct result of a bad hold and another a 53-yard prayer into the frigid wind vs. Syracuse…Tausch's 14 straight successful field goals included five key kicks vs. Washington (a program record in one game without a miss) as the Irish red zone offense struggled early…Walker hasn't missed a PAT since September 2007 (58 consecutive)…Ruffer has never missed a field goal while donning an Irish helmet…Walker showed mettle hitting three consecutive overtime field goals vs. Pittsburgh in 2008 including a career-best 48-yard boot…though Ruffer is 1-1 in overtime and Walker is 4-5 in extra periods…competition from three kickers allows for niche roles if necessary, such as a kick-off specialist, long field goal specialist, etc.

Weaknesses

The trio has kicked off 84 times with just two boots resulting in two touchbacks…Tausch's average is just under 62 yards per kick-off, Ruffer's nearly identical at 62.1 while Walker, unlikely to fill the role in 2010 due to his balky back, was especially short when he served part-time in the role in 2007 at 56.4 yards per boot…Tausch appeared to check out mentally after his streak-snapping miss vs. Navy, pulling his second offering, then pulling up lame in consecutive warm-ups at Pittsburgh and on senior day vs. Connecticut (he did not kick again in 2009 after the second miss in the loss to Navy)…Tausch attempted (and hit) just one 4th Quarter field goal as a freshman…Walker's 7-16 effort from 40-49 yards out is unacceptable for a BCS kicker…none of the trio has connected on a game-winning field goal in their respective careers.

Note: The Kickoff team will be ranked and reviewed separately.

For Tausch's Pre-Camp Assessment, click here. Brandon Walker sat out the 2009 season, his 2008 Pre-Camp Assessment can be found here. Ruffer's will appear during August Training Camp assuming his role becomes more clearly defined or discussed by the staff.

Entering August

They're unproven in the clutch, they're below average in terms of kick-off depth, and long-range boots have eluded them, but as a trio, Tausch, Walker, and Ruffer have been accurate, at least over the last 19 contests.

The assumption is that Tausch leads for the place-kicking role entering August (both he and Ruffer missed Blue Gold Game extra points) with Walker the wild-card due to his balky back and Ruffer a quality insurance policy and a competitor for kick-off duties.

But no Irish fan or coach will rest easy until the kicker of choice nails a pressure kick. And Irish fans won't stop lamenting the lack of touchbacks until Ruffer or Tausch stops depositing the pigskin somewhere near the 9-yard line.

The Irish kickers combined to finish 19-22 on field goal attempts last season. They never missed a 4th Quarter or overtime kick. Sign me up for a repeat performance.


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