Many think three-star recruit Ben Buchanan has the potential to join that distinguished group whose members have won both Lou Groza and Ray Guy Awards during the past six seasons. The senior from Westerville (Ohio) Central, a class of 2008 verbal commitment, is one of the top five kickers in the country and made a 65-yard field goal this summer at former Buckeye Dan Stultz's Buckeye Kicking Academy.
But his biggest immediate challenge for Buchanan is local: helping his Warhawks shake off an 0-2 start and getting them ready to face state title contender Dublin Coffman and OSU verbals Mike Adams and Jake Stoneburner tonight.
It will be a winning night on the field for at least one central Ohio school with Buckeye commits on it, but off the field Buchanan said he expects the three to have fun with the showdown.
"It's all good fun," Buchanan said. "I talked to Mike and Jake last week at the YSU-Ohio State game. I saw them in the recruiting seats and up in the room. It's great. I've become great friends with them. They're two classy individuals and I really love hanging out with them. They're favored with all the athletes they have, but I'm going to go out there and do the best I can. I want to give my team good field position, I want to make my field goals if I get the opportunity and I want to lead my team."
The fates of Buchanan and Central have not lined up yet this season. The 6-0, 185-pound Buchanan has made all four field goals, three of which have been longer than 40 yards. However, the Warhawks were blitzed 28-3 in week one by Dublin Jerome and saw a 9-point halftime lead disappear last week during a 51-30 loss to crosstown rival Westerville South at Crew Stadium.
Buchanan, a captain who also plays wideout, said he'd trade a couple field-goal attempts for some more extra points and wins.
"First and foremost I think I'm really a team player," he said. "We haven't had much success as a team. I've really been blessed with some great opportunities. I think we have a great field goal unit. I think that's been shown thus far with all the attempts being made. I want to help out my team any way I can."
Buchanan said he takes his craft seriously during practice sessions during the week. He called Monday and Tuesday his "hard kick days," and Central starts every practice with special teams drills, much like Ohio State. After that is over, he is in drills with the offense as a starting wideout.
Despite the lofty success Buchanan has already had, he does not want to be a guy that struggles early in his college career like many kickers, even Nugent, have, so he's working on becoming more consistent in his kicks.
"Every kicker, no matter if you're 20-20, you can always get better," he said. "I'm still working with leg strength, power and flexibility, but just being consistent, whether that be punting, putting all of my kickoffs in the back of the end zone or putting them out of the end zone, or being perfect on my field goals. I'm striving for perfection, and you're going to accept excellence through that."
Buchanan said he does not know if he is going to redshirt his first season when Trapasso and Pretorius will be seniors and Pettrey a junior. A quick gander at that depth chart would suggest that despite Buchanan's known prowess as a place-kicker, he should get his first chance as a punter, a skill of his that he says is underrated.
"It's been good," he said of his punting. "I would just say solid up to this point. I'm probably averaging around a 42-yard average and last week at Crew (when he punted thrice for an average of 41.3 yards) we were into the wind the entire time. … I'm hitting the ball pretty clean right now. I think most people think of me as a field-goal kicker but most people don't know I'm probably going to be a punter at Ohio State first. I really think it's one of my strongest assets."
Buchanan said the Buckeye staff is continually supporting his efforts, and he has also worked with former Buckeye booters Stultz, Groom and Tim Williams, all of whom have helped him.
"I've talked to Stultz and to Williams at the camps and stuff," he said. "They've always been so nice. They'll give you their numbers. They want to help you out in any way they can. I've worked with Andy Groom a couple times too, and he's been very helpful. I'll tell you what, he can hit a ball. It's awesome to watch him punt. Just to learn from those guys, they're out there and they want to help you. I want to gain as much knowledge as I can and put that to use and put a great Buckeye career together."