Kicking Notebook: Specialists Not Concerned

Even though Wednesday's kick scrimmage wasn't the most crisp of the Jim Tressel era when it came to the kickers, those players themselves weren't all that worried afterward. Find out why, then read about the placekicking battle, Ben Buchanan's progress and the fakes in the Buckeye playbook.

Considering the kickers on the Ohio State football team made 11 of 19 tries at Wednesday's kick scrimmage, many might term the squad's performance as underwhelming.

The participants in the scrimmage itself had a slightly different view.

Though there didn't seem to be a breakout star when it came to the kicking game, each participant – be it incumbent Ryan Pretorius or challenger Aaron Pettrey – in the battle for the starting placekicking role had good things to say about the way they hit field goals even if they didn't always go through the uprights.

"I hit good, solid balls," Pretorius said. "That just brings up the confidence. That's what you want to do the whole time. … I couldn't have hit the balls any better than I did. I was relieved to have done as well as I did."

The 29-year-old from South Africa reaffirmed his hold on the starting job by making 5 of 8 tries, including the day's longest field goal, a 53-yarder. Pretorius was 18 of 23 last year, but four of his five misses were blocked. On Wednesday, all three of his misses were simply wide of the mark.

On the other side of the coin was Aaron Pettrey, who finished 4 of 8 after missing his first three attempts. Two of those were blocked, though Pettrey took responsibility by saying he did not approach the ball quick enough.

"I thought everybody did pretty well today," he said. "I could have done better. I was happy with myself at the end. I missed one out of five or so down here (at the south end)."

Then there was starting punter A.J. Trapasso, who is entering his fourth year as the Buckeyes' punter. He wasn't all that impressed with himself – his longest boot went 43 yards, and his average was below 40 – but said the special teams, as a whole, had a good day.

And if he was unconcerned about his performance Wednesday, his backup, Jon Thoma, was there to pick him up.

"A.J. had a little bit of an off day," said Thoma, who himself showcased a stronger and more consistent leg than in the past. "He didn't do his best, but he's been punting great in camp. There's no worry there."

Battle Tested
For the third consecutive year, Pettrey and Pretorius went into the kick scrimmage battling to prove that they deserved to have the chance to be the team's No. 1 kicker. Round three, on the surface, went to Pretorius, as afterward head coach Jim Tressel said the senior would be taking placement kicks if the season were to start immediately.

Pretorius, who wrested the job from Pettrey last fall with the exclamation point coming during the kick scrimmage, said this year's battle has been similar to the ones in the past.

"I never think the job is mine," he said. "It's a dogfight the whole time. Aaron is an unbelievable kicker and so is Ben Buchanan. He's going to be great one day. Every day is a dogfight, so it's a competition and I've never relaxed, ever.

"I spoke to Mike Nugent recently and he said he took every day as if it was his job to lose, and I've done the same thing."

As for Pettrey, he was hoping to duplicate his success from the 2006 kick scrimmage. Pretorius was the presumed favorite to win the kicking duties going into that campaign, but Pettrey was perfect during the kick scrimmage to win the job. He went on to make 8 of 11 field goals for a team that reached the national title game.

"It would have been nice to have had a day like I had two years ago," he said. "I was just trying to come out here and hit the ball like I did all camp."

He and Pretorius have often said they are friends off the field, and Pettrey said that has helped keep away any hard feelings from the kicking battle.

"We've just tried to have fun with it, make each other better," he said. "It's not like anybody gets upset with one another or holds a grudge or anything."

On Buchanan
The only scholarship freshman to join the kicking game this year is Ben Buchanan, the strong-legged punter/kicker from nearby Westerville Central. He earned plenty of plaudits for his accuracy and leg strength as a Warhawk and was perhaps the top kicking prospect in the Midwest when he chose Ohio State.

After the scrimmage, he was asked to compare kicking in high school games to kicking during a live scrimmage in Ohio Stadium while wearing scarlet and gray.

"Honestly, it felt very similar, actually," he said. "Obviously, you're a little more in your element in high school. That's what I was used to for four years. Being here in the stadium – I was talking about being able to learn from Ryan and A.J. and all these older guys. They've been battle-tested in so many big games. I think it's a lot of fun to come out here and showcase your talents."

Buchanan didn't have the best of days. After making his first field goal of 35 yards, he doinked a 40-yarder off the left upright from the right hash and later pushed a 45-yarder wide right. His final try of 42 yards was blocked, though it appeared that Kurt Coleman was offside before he got his hands on the ball.

Buchanan also attempted two punts, both with the ball snapped at his own 1-yard line. He got each away cleanly, booting one 35 yards and the other 44.

"Obviously, you're going to have things go your way and things that aren't," he said. "I was happy with my performance. I think Ryan and Aaron had a great day and I'm here to learn from them."

Though he more than likely is in line for a redshirt, Buchanan has worked with the kicking and punting units in camp.

"I think I've kicked the ball consistently very well this camp," he said. "I think my punting has come along of late. It's just one of those things that the more snaps you take, the better you're going to get."

Fakes Not Real, Spectacular
A.J. Trapasso likes to run the ball; after all, he compiled 3,754 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns as a prepster in Pickerington, Ohio.

So the fact that most of the fakes his Scarlet team attempted to execute Wednesdays were pass plays did not sit well with Trapasso, who used his rushing skills on a fake to pick up a first down on an 18-yard run last year against Minnesota.

"I think the old-fashioned ones work, just running the ball, not trying to get too fancy," he said. "I know what I would want to do, but I don't know how much that matters."

Trapasso had anecdotal evidence on his side as well. The 7-point margin of victory in the scrimmage for the opposing Gray team was set on a failed fake punt. Trapasso's pass on one fake was tipped, intercepted and run back for a touchdown to give Gray a lead it would not relinquish.

One other fake of note came on the final play. With the Scarlet team needing a touchdown from the 38-yard line to tie the game, the squad lined up for a field goal that obviously needed to be faked. Thoma ended up lofting a pass down the right sideline into traffic for Dane Sanzenbacher, who nearly made a circus catch at the 1-yard line but could not hold on.

"The whole stadium knew we were going to try to fake it," Thoma said before crediting either Rory Nicol or Brian Hartline for the play design. "We just drew it up. Dane was supposed to sneak out on the field so the other team didn't see him, but they caught him. I just threw it up there. He almost came down with it, almost made a great play, but that's the way it goes sometimes."

Thoma put some air under the ball, rolling out and tossing it more than 40 yards in something approaching a spiral.

"I was a quarterback in eighth grade," he said with a smile. "I can throw the ball a little bit, yeah."


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