The Team Within The Team

The kicker, the holder and the snapper are the three most important cogs on the place-kicking unit. While one gets most of the publicity, all three work equally to ensure a successful effort. Take a look at how this team within the team functions.

There's a lot more to a simple field goal kick or point-after attempt than meets the eye.

While most eyes focus simply on the kicker's swinging leg and the arc of the ball soaring toward the goalposts, in truth there are three key components that go into a successful place-kicking unit – aside from the eight blockers who are not supposed to be handling the ball. Each component is equally important to ensuring that the kick is successful.

And it all breeds out of one thing.

"It's all repetition," said sophomore Jon Thoma, one of the team's holders. "When I came, my first kick scrimmage I was holding for Josh Huston's team and it was horrible. I was no good at all. As a specialist, we don't do much. We punt, we hold. With repetition comes consistency."

In the last three years, Thoma estimated that he has held for "thousands" of kicks. He is referred to as the leader of the unit.

The kicker and the holder are a team within the team. When the Buckeyes changed starting kickers this season as junior Ryan Pretorius won the starting job from sophomore Aaron Pettrey, that also meant a promotion for his holder, Thoma.

Not surprisingly, after Pretorius emerged as the starter following the team's kick scrimmage during fall camp, the first person he thanked was Thoma.

"I wouldn't be here without my holder, Jon Thoma, who has done an absolutely unbelievable job," Pretorius said.

In addition to establishing a level of trust with the kicker, the team's holder must know exactly how the kicker likes the ball to be held for him. Pettrey likes the ball set straight up for him, while Pretorius prefers it a little different. Junior Andrew Good, who is sharing kickoff duties alongside Trapasso as Pettrey battles an injury, likes the ball straight up and down but tilted back toward himself.

"For me personally, slightly forward and a little towards himself so the ball is tilted to the right," he said. "That prevents a hook. Instead of putting the ball straight up and down, if you tilt it slightly away from me, if I pull the ball slightly that slight tilt is going to straighten the ball out in the air. It's not going to hook at much."

As Pretorius and Thoma were promoted to the first team, Trapasso was relegated to the second team along with Pettrey. The starting punter said he does not view the move as a demotion, however.

"Not at all," Trapasso said. "If I'm needed, I can jump in there and try to do what Ryan likes as far as the hold. I don't feel that it's a demotion at all. In fact, I'm proud of Jon and the job he's done so far. I'm glad he's getting in there and getting some time in there.

"I think it's just (about) being familiar with the kicker. It's not a competition at all between him and I. We're really good friends and I'm happy for him. I'm glad he's getting some playing time."

Before each kick, whether it be an extra point or a 52-yard field goal, each duo has a unique routine.

"Whenever we go out there, I shake (Pretorius') hand, he says, ‘Nice and easy, just like always,' and then he takes a step back and we do it the same way every time," Thoma said.

There is one more piece to the kicking puzzle, however. In order for the holder to get a good hold down for the kicker, the ball must arrive properly. For that, he has the team's short snapper to thank.

This season, that role has been filled by redshirt freshman Jake McQuaide after he has battled with fifth-year senior Dimitrios Makridis. McQuaide handles the snaps on field goals and extra points, while Makridis is the team's snapper for punts.

While different kickers like the ball held different ways, the opposite is true for their holders. The goal for the snapper is to consistently put the ball in the same spot every time.

"It's usually the back knee," Makridis said. "The way we get into our stance, we aim for the back knee and that would be considered the perfect short snap."

To practice during the week, the snappers hold a daily competition. Called "pole hits," each snapper gets to aim five short snaps and six long snaps at the field goal post. A good day consists of missing just one short snap and connecting on at least two long snaps, Makridis said.

"To hit a pole is pretty hard to do, so if you can do that you're good to go," he said.

While trust is necessary for every part of the kicking unit, Makridis said the most trust is needed in the holder from the snapper than any other part of the unit.

"It's more of a trust from him to us than from us to him because he kind of covers us if we mess up," he said with a laugh.


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