Justin Sparks

Who will it be? Redshirt freshman Justin Sparks or true freshman Joshua Shene? Or will senior Will Moseley or someone else ease into the placekicking picture at the Ole Miss Football Camp? One thing is for certain, Coach Ed Orgeron is searching for answers. Read about it inside.

The Ole Miss placekicking job is up for grabs.

Right now, a battle rages between RS freshman Justin Sparks and true freshman Joshua Shene.

One day, Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron will mention a lean in favor of Sparks, the next it may be Shene. In fact, that was the case yesterday when Orgeron was asked by the media after practice if Sparks was still ahead in the hunt.

"Actually, Josh had a fantastic day today," responded Coach O.

After last year's performance by the PKs - collectively, Orgeron is allowing the situation every opportunity to play out.

"This competition will go on up until the first game and maybe throughout the season," he added.

For his part, Sparks is pleased wtih the way things are going.

"I think I'm a little ahead, but I'm sure Josh feels the same way. Nobody really has the job yet. It's going to go right up to the first game and both of us are kicking well," Sparks noted. "It would be hard to make a choice right now because one day I'll have a great day and the next day Josh will do a little better and I might be a little off."

And therin lies the rub for the Ole Miss coaches. Even though both Shene and Sparks feel they are kicking well, there seems to still be consistency issues, which was the Achilles heel of the PKs last year.

"Consistency is what all of us are striving for. I think we have improved in that area, but I don't think any of us are where we need to be right now. We are getting there though," Sparks stated. "Consistency is what we are all looking for - the coaches, the kickers, everyone.

"The coaches really don't care if we can kick it 65 yards. They just want us to make everything we are supposed to make and the ones that are there to be made - 40-45 yards and in. Josh and I still have off days and that's what we have to shore up."

Sparks indicated in an earlier interview that he was trying to eliminate the bad misses - the shanks, the duck hooks, etc. - from his game. He feels he's made strides in that direction.

"I'm hitting the ball solid with much more consistently," he said. "Now I just have to get it through the uprights more consistently. In our first scrimamge, I missed a couple, but both of them hit the crossbars. That's kind of what I was talking about.

"There's no such thing as a good miss. A miss is a miss, but there are bad misses and I had to eliminate those first, which I think I'm close to doing. I can tell the difference since spring in that respect and it's translating into more kicks going through. What I'm working on now, since I've narrowed my margin of error down, is making them all, if that makes sense. I've pretty much eliminated the ugly, knock-the-mascot-out, kicks."

Sparks and the rest of the PKs are only one-fourth of the FG kicking. The protection, snap and hold are the other vital pieces. To this point, Sparks is pleased with all of that.

"As placekickers, we don't really have any excuses. The protection has been good, all the new freshmen snappers are really good - better than what we had in spring, and Rob (Park) is on the money as a holder. He works at that hard and takes price in it," Sparks continued. "You know when you get ready to kick that the ball will be placed right where you want it. That, in itself, gives you confidence.

"Timing of the snap, hold and kick is important. At this point, I think out timing is very good, very consistent, which we didn't have some in spring. We worked hard on that this summer because if the kicker has to hesitate or adjust his steps or anything like that, the odds of a successful kick go down. It's hard enough putting the ball through the goalposts when all of that is good. It's more difficult when one of those pieces breaks down."

Justin feels more competition will surface when school starts Monday and some more kickers, including Matt Hinkle and Robert Bass, who both kicked some in games last year, join the team. And where does Will Moseley, who was the number one PK out of spring, but appears to be doing only kickoff duties right now, fit into the mix?

"We have competent kickers. We just all have to gain more consistency and confidence and that really won't start to surface until one of us has success and consistency in games," he closed.

And the race continues. . .

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