The winner of the 2003 Lou Groza Award, given to the top college PK in the country, left behind big shoes. It was a little rocky for the Rebs when they lined up to kick after Nichols departed.
Prior to last season there was some doubt as to who might emerge as the Rebels' placekicker. Heading into this season, sophomore Joshua Shene appears to be the guy again as the Rebs head to Memphis to open the season Saturday afternoon.
There will be a large gathering on hand for the game at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. But that won't matter to the Oklahoma native. He got used to those type crowds last season when he was 14-of-17 in the field goal department and a perfect 20-of-20 on extra points, leading the team in scoring with 62 points.
"I was nervous last season, especially going out there in front of all those people in the stadium," said Shene, who was named preseason second-team All-Southeastern Conference by several publications this summer. "Last year, that was the big thing for me to overcome. I'd never played in front of 60,000 people on national television. I feel a lot better and am comfortable now. When we play Memphis, I will be fine as far as the crowd goes."
Which makes the Ole Miss coaching staff more comfortable than at this time last year when things were more unsettled about who the placekicker would be.
"Josh has been on (this preseason)," said Ole Miss assistant coach and special teams coordinator Chris Rippon. "When I first recruited him two years ago, we weren't sure about field goals and PATs, but we were sure about kickoffs (because of the strength of his leg). Now he is making us look smart."
Shene was a late commit/signee in the Feb., 2006, class. He was what might be called a "surprise" signee, and even Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron deemed it as such on Signing Day.
Shene came in and was everything the coaching staff hoped he'd be in season one. The Putnam City North High School graduate was named a first-team Freshman All-American by Scout.com after his first season to kick for the Rebs.
Rippon says Shene has handled things well and that's been positive.
"The major concern (this time last year) was that he would try to get too technical," Rippon said. "He had great success. He just went out there and was the kicker. Now he is an established returning starter."
Unlike last year when Will Moseley kicked off, Shene has added that duty as well and appears to be the kickoff guy for Ole Miss this time around. This year in college football, kickoffs are from the 30-yard-line instead of the 35.
"Five yards doesn't seem like a lot, but it definitely is," Shene said. "I'm trying to get more hang time and more distance. I think the butterflies will be worse kicking off than on field goals."
Rippon says there are some differences this year with the additional five yards, but Shene can handle it just fine.
"To me, kicking off is fun," Rippon said. "You're not necessarily placing the ball, and there isn't a rush coming at you. There are no external factors. You just go up there and whack it as hard as you can. We pride ourselves on good coverage, and the goal is to get the guy down inside the 20 and definitely inside the 25. It is something we have really been preaching. Josh has the leg strength to get it done."
Shene says he's worked hard to make sure year two in college football is even more successful than year one. But he keeps in all in perspective.
"I don't look at the expectations," said the son of Al and Kelli Shene, who was a Chancellor's and UMAA Honor Roll student last school year. "It is more important to just come in every day and work hard. Last year, I didn't even think I would play, much less end up starting every game."
Shene, who received the Scholar-Athlete Award from the Ole Miss chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, was 4-for-4 in the season-opening 28-25 win for Ole Miss over Memphis in Oxford last season.
He was 3-for-3 in the field goal department vs. Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a 26-23 overtime loss for the Rebels. Against Northwestern (La.) State in Oxford, a 27-7 UM victory, Shene kicked his collegiate career-long field goal of 52 yards.
Still, he wants to be better this time around.
"I am working on consistency, especially from 45 (yards) to 47 and out," said Shene, rated as the No. 2 kicker in the country as a senior in high school by Scout.com. "I need to be able to make those every day. I feel confident with anything 52 and in."
And that's a good feeling for any and all associated with Ole Miss football.
Shene wants to be even better in year two
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