Kickers optimistic

The Rebel placekickers did not perform last year the way they wanted to. Now, the Rebs have a redshirt freshman and a true freshman battling it out for FG/PAT duties and a sophomore returning to handle the punting chores. Read about thei progress inside.

Publisher's Note: With Spirit Editor Jeff Roberson still recovering from recent surgery, longtime friend and Spirit contributor Glen Waddle chipped in yesterday helping with interviews at Rebel Media Day. We will publish the results of his efforts in the next few days and appreciate his helping hand.

The 2005 Ole Miss Rebel kicking game was, in the eyes of many and to be very kind, lackluster.

According to the Rebel kickers, however, the 2006 year will be very different.

Redshirt freshman kicker Justin Sparks of Memphis, true freshman kicker Joshua Shene, and sophomore punter Rob Park of Memphis will be vying for the key slots once the season kicks off against Memphis.

Will Moseley will, at the very least, handle kickoff duties. He was not available at Rebel Media Days.

At Rebel Media Day, the trio gave their impressions of the Ole Miss 2006 kicking game.

Joshua Shene, the frosh PK from Oklahoma, was the number two placekicker in the country in the prep ranks last year. He's finding things a bit different at Ole Miss, but nothing is unexpected.

"Camp's gone really well. All of us are kicking really well so far. It's been good competition so far," said Shene. " I knew this would be tough coming in and a different atmosphere from high school."

" This camp has pretty much echoed what I expected. I knew I wasn't going to just walk in and have the job automatically and I knew it would come down to who does the best. That's what I expected."

In yesterday's press conference, Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron said Justin Sparks, the redshirt freshman from Memphis, TN, has a slight edge over Shene right now, but the competition would continue right up to the season opener.

"Everybody is kicking well. As Josh says, it's still a good competition between everybody," Sparks, who went 6-7 in practice yesterday, noted. "This will probably go all the way down to the Memphis game. It's been good competition and we have both been kicking well."

Sparks is also competing with Rob Park for the punting job, but Park has a distinct edge there because he was the Rebel punter last year and is having a good camp.

"Rob's punting well, Josh and I are kicking well. Everything's been real good," Sparks continued. "I like the direction we are going right now. We just have to keep it up and respond when our number is called."

Sparks said the kicking operation of snapper/holder is also coming around. Park was the holder last year, but the Rebs are looking for a different snapper for placements this fall.

"Rob's our holder and he's really good at it," Sparks noted. " We have three freshmen all competing for long snapper and they're doing well right now. I don't know if the coaches have decided first or second team on them right now. They are all real good."

Park is pleased, so far, with his punting performance.

"The punting this year has gone really well. We've had good operations and our snappers are doing well and our gunners are doing a great job getting down the field. Personally, I feel a lot more confident this year and I feel I'm a lot smoother with my steps," Park stated. "Our ‘get-off' times are great right now. According to Coach O, I guess I have the punting job. I feel confident and I have been working with the ones all camp. I've increased my hang time and we have had under two second get-offs most of the time. I think we'll have a different punting game than we did last year. "

Park obviously understands the importance of a good snap to make his job easier.

" Right now, Wesley Phillips (true freshman, Madison Central HS) is the number one long snapper and he's doing a great job. Preston Powers (true freshman, Collierville, TN) is number two but they are still battling it out. That's a day-to-day situation," Park continued. " My hang time and consistency are better than last year. I'm definitely more confident than I was last year. Confidence is a huge part of punting and it's making me better day to day. Justin Sparks is my backup and he's punting really well right now. We're still kind of battling it out. It's a good competition and keeps us on top of our game."

Park does not take his holding duties lightly.

"We work on holding (on placekicks) every day and I take pride in my holding. The biggest part of the kicking operation is the snap and the kick and I work on this every day since I know the importance of a good hold to the kickers," Park closed. "You have to be consistent and give them a perfect target to kick. The timing is important because you don't want to mess up the kickers' steps and throw them off."

Moseley, they all said, will definitely handle the kickoffs and they expect him to be dynamic in that capacity.

"Will has such a strong leg. His kickoffs always give us an advantage in field position and that's what you want," Sparks added.

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