Four games into the 2005 football season, there have been players who have kicked for the Ole Miss Rebels in games while others have simply been prepared to kick.
Certainly heading into fall practice back in August, there were no clear-cut favorites for the punting and placekicking duties. There was junior Will Moseley, who kicked in the spring and was thought to be ahead of the pack in the PK department. But Matt Hinkle, already on the squad as well, was also in the mix.
Junior Hunter Bray was here in August as well but departed the squad last month. Robert Bass was here last year redshirting as a freshman, and Christian Albarracin is a sophomore placekicker also still on the squad.
True freshman Justin Sparks was thought to perhaps be the frontrunner for the placekicking duties when he arrived. But he strained his knee the first day of practice, and he's basically been out of the picture since he lost a couple of weeks of preseason practice time.
Hinkle was 1-for-2 in the field goal department at Memphis but hasn't seen any action since.
Heading into game five of the season, all those names, except Bray obviously, continue to pop up as placekickers for the Rebels in some way, shape, or form. Coach Chris Rippon, special teams coordinator, says every week there is competition for the placekicking spot, and any number of things could change over time.
"Until somebody really sticks that flag in the ground and declares this is mine," Rippon says, "then we'll keep all our options open."
Moseley has become the Rebels long field goal kicker and kickoff man. He says there's no secret to his recent success and improvement. It all stems from daily work and reps.
"I feel like I've gotten a lot better in practice," said Moseley, who made a 50-yarder in the first quarter at Tennessee last Saturday. "I've just tried to slow down my approach a little bit and keep my head down. Things are starting to work out for me, it seems."
Moseley says he's never really been a team's regular punter except for one year in junior college. Along with kickoffs, kicking long field goals, and punting, he has a platter full at the present time.
"Doing all those things is a little bit hard to adjust in the games," he said. "But I think it's been coming along better for me."
While Moseley has settled in with those duties, Bass has kicked the extra points lately. Moseley says there are reasons he has not been called on for shorter kicks.
"One is I've been having trouble getting the ball straight up quickly," he said. "I'm more of a drive the ball kicker. I'm trying to get out of that situation and get the ball up better."
Moseley says that the past two games have been more stable for him with Bass kicking short placekicks and him handling everything else.
"As of right now it does feel more settled," he said. "Last week was pretty much the same as the week before. So that helped."
Moseley knew the punting situation was open coming into fall camp, but he still thought his duties would be more placekicking than punting. As it has turned out, he's dealing with both.
"Just getting more reps has helped," said Moseley, whose punting average at UT was 41.4 yards on five punts. "I didn't do all that much punting in the summer. I really didn't think I was going to be doing it. But every week in August camp and during the season I've gotten to punt more, and that's helped."
As far as placekicking, Moseley said the 50-yarder he made at Tennessee was the best feeling he's had in a while.
"It was instant relief when it went through," said the West Lauderdale High and East Mississippi Community College product. "It definitely boosted my confidence, which is what I've needed."
Rippon says he's impressed with how serious Moseley takes his duties with the Rebels and believes he is getting better and better.
"Will is such a conscientious and intense competitor," Rippon said. "I think he's got a comfort zone now that he knows he is the long field goal kicker. As much relief as we can give him from punting, kicking, kickoffs, extra points, short field goals, long field goals - that's a lot for one guy to do. Really punting and kicking are so different in their preparation. He has handled his adjustment to doing so much very well."
But Rippon says true freshman Rob Park may be called on soon to punt. That way Moseley can focus even more on his placekicking duties.
"The second that Rob Park becomes our punter, if he does indeed become that, then I think you will see an even better Will Moseley," Rippon said. "Then Will won't have to worry about so much, and he can concentrate on kicking off from the tee and kicking long field goals. Rob is awfully close to punting. Don't be surprised if you see Rob Park out there Saturday."
The kicking and punting aspect of special teams has been at times a struggle for the 2005 Rebels. While improved lately, Rippon says he isn't ready to say the Rebels have turned the corner.
"I do think we see the corner. I think we've identified it. But we still have a ways to go," he said.
Rippon says that every week is a new week, and that every practice is important to monitor the progress of all the kickers and punters.
"Robert Bass has kicked well (in the extra point department). He was injured earlier and had to wait his turn. Now he's kicking with a lot of confidence. We had five kickers out there, and the decision hasn't been made until right before each game. I went to Coach O and said here's what I think, and he made the final decision. He's the head coach.
"Robert is kicking with a lot of confidence. There's great protection. Will has the strongest leg on the team. The ball just explodes off his foot. We can take a shot in the right situation with a 55-60 yard field goal.
"Right now Matt (Hinkle) is the next guy. Another walkon that came up with the 105, Christian Albarracin, is here as well and still kicking. As I said, until somebody really sticks that flag in the ground and declares this is mine, then we'll keep our options open."
Moseley, Rippon talk Rebel kicking
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