On numerous occasions, Meyer and his coaches and players have said that the Buckeyes want to score touchdowns on offense and not kick field goals. That was the case last year, as senior placekicker Drew Basil attempted only 10 field goals. He made nine, missing only a 49-yard attempt at Illinois.
Basil also set a school record with 102 consecutive extra points made during his career, a streak that ended with another miss in windy Champaign. For his career, Basil made 82.5 percent (33 for 40) of his field goals. But Basil is gone, leaving a battle between a freshman and a veteran walk-on to take place during the preseason.
Nuernberger, a product of Buckner (Ky.) Oldham County High School, was one of six members of Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class to enroll early in January. A two-time first-team all-state selection by the Louisville Courier-Journal, Nuernberger made 13 of 20 field goals last season. Of those seven misses, five were blocked and two were attempts of 54 and 56 yards, respectively. He set a school record last fall with a 57-yard field goal against Louisville Ballard.
“We haven’t named Nuernberger the kicker yet, but he’s really talented,” Meyer said Aug. 10 during Ohio State’s Media Day.
Nuernberger participated in Ohio State’s spring football practices and getting that early start was a big benefit according to the kicker.
“Coming in early in the spring really helped get me acclimated to everything,” Nuernberger said. “There’s a big difference in school work from where I was in high school. Coming in here and majoring in biology is a task. I took a couple of tough courses (in the spring), so it was nice to get that out of the way, get into the flow of things and see how practices went.
“We’re busy all day long. I feel like that would have been hard to do during the summer, just a couple of weeks before the first game. That helped a lot.”
During preseason practices that were open to the media, Nuernberger was the first kicker to attempt field goals during special teams work. As of media day, Nuernberger was happy with his preseason performances.
“I’ve fixed a lot of the things I was doing in the spring, and I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well and making most of my kicks,” he said. “There’s still a couple of weeks left before the final decision has to be made, but I’ve been doing well so far. It’s been good.”
If he does get the job, Nuernberger will have to deal with the pressure that comes from playing in front of large crowds at Ohio Stadium. He admitted to being both nervous and excited to attempt his first kick as a Buckeye, and Coombs said the coaching staff has worked on preparing him for pressure situations.
“He hasn’t walked out there in front of 110,000 people yet and kicked a ball, but we try to do everything we can to put him under intense pressure in practice and in the weight room so that he feels that at least,” Coombs said. “So his heart feels that before he steps out there and does it.”
Not to be overlooked, Clinton has been working as the second-string placekicker. The Dublin (Ohio) Coffman product has appeared in only two games since joining the team in January 2012. He kicked off in the 2012 season opener vs. Miami (Ohio) and made several appearances during last season’s rout of Florida A&M. He kicked off and made three extra points against the Rattlers.
Clinton, who began his collegiate career with Ohio University and appeared in each game for the Bobcats in 2010 before transferring to Ohio State in the fall of 2011, said kickoffs might be his best chance to see the field this fall.
“My best aspect is kickoffs. I get a lot of hang time on that,” Clinton said. “Sean has been killing in field goals.”
Coombs termed Clinton as a gifted kicker and mature player. As for kickoffs, Coombs said Clinton and Nuernberger are also battling for that spot as well.
“They’re both in the mix,” Coombs said. “For us, kickoffs are like punts in that it’s about kick placement. The guy who places the ball best is going to be the guy who will handle kickoffs.”
As for the placekicking battle, Coombs was confident in whoever emerges with the job.
“I think that we’re going to be very effective there,” he said. “It’s not our mission to kick a lot of kick a lot of field goals, it’s to score touchdowns. But when called up, they will be ready.”
Also listed at kicker for the Buckeyes is Tim Scott (5-11, 185), a senior walk-on from Norton, Ohio.