Huston Hopes To (Finally) Fill Kicking Role

For OSU sixth-year senior Josh Huston, the start of another grueling preseason camp must seem like the movie Groundhog Day. But this year, preseason camp means much more for Huston. Mike Nugent has moved on to the NFL and Huston is the odds-on favorite to be OSU's opening day kicker.

Earlier this week, Ohio State defensive end Mike Kudla was asked about which position the Buckeyes needed to fill the most.

He thought about it for a moment and then went off the board. Instead of mentioning any of the open positions on offense or defense, Kudla talked about the importance of finding a serviceable kicker to replace departed Lou Groza Award winner Mike Nugent.

Even better, Josh Huston, starting his sixth fall camp with the Buckeyes, is the odds on favorite to fill that spot.

"We're trying to replace Nuge," Kudla said. "He was a big part of this team for a couple of years. We've got a couple of guys going at it right now. I know Josh has worked real hard this off-season. That would be our biggest hole to fill right now."

Huston has attempted just 10 career field goals in five previous seasons with the Buckeyes. The Findlay, Ohio, native attempted all of those in the ill-fated 2001 season, making just three before losing the kicking job (permanently) to Nugent.

"You start figuring it out after a while," Huston said. "You go out here and figure out what you need to do and how to save your leg and when to kick and when not to kick.

"I've been in the shadows for six years, but it's been fun. I've learned a lot watching Mike kick and just being around him and how to handle situations. It should be fun this year."

Nugent ended his career as a two-time All-American. He went on to become a second-round NFL draft pick of the New York Jets. Huston said he has kept in touch with Nugent since his departure for the Big Apple.

"I talk to Mike," Huston said. "We kicked together before he left. We shared a few things together and I wished him luck."

With Nugent in firm control of the kicking job, Huston tried his hand at punting last year. But when walk-on Kyle Turano nailed down that job, Huston was again relegated to the sidelines.

"I had never punted before," Huston said. "I was trying to just get out there and do it. I punted too much in the preseason and my body didn't hold up. I didn't have the pop any more. With kicking, I already know how to kick. When I practice, I don't practice to get better. I practice to maintain and make sure I'll be in top form for camp and, ultimately, for the season."

Huston is the one remaining remnant from the John Cooper era. He talks about his long and arduous road to this season.

"When you look at it, you're part of a great team," he said. "That's how you look at it, whether you play or not. It's tough. Last year, I just put myself in situations and asked, `If I'm in this situation, how would I prepare?' It was good preparation for this year.

"My heartrate will be a lot higher actually doing it. In practice, you prepare yourself. You just go out there and say, `This is to beat Michigan' or `This is to beat Texas' or Iowa or whatever. You try to put yourself as close to the game as possible. The key thing is to go into the game confident. That's what Mike had and that's what I need to be successful."

Huston knows that, although he has some seniority, that walk-ons Aaron Pettrey and Ryan Pretorius will give him a battle.

"You can expect me to say, `I'm the kicker,' " Huston said. "But I know I still have a lot of things to prove on the field. I still have a lot of respect I need to gain from the fans and my teammates. I know when I go out there for the kick scrimmage they will want to be on my team, but that's still not the game. I need to go out there and prove myself. I think after the first few games doing well, hopefully, it will set in that I have the job and I am doing well."

Huston discussed ways he hopes to help the Buckeyes this season.

"On kickoffs, if it's good weather and not a lot of wind, I'm expecting 100 percent touchbacks," he said. "My kickoffs have always been a strong point of my kicking game. I'm excited about that.

"On field goals, I don't want to miss inside the 40. You have to go in and expect to make everything. If it's up to me whether I can make (a specific length), I'll go out in pregame and tell them how far I can go each way. It will be up to Coach Tressel then whether to put me out there. We'll see."

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