Personnel Report: Kickers

We continue our series looking at the positions expected to see shakeups this spring with personnel shifts and new talent. With Nittany Lion senior Robbie Gould out of the picture due to graduation, Penn State is expected to have a three-way battle for kicking duties this off-season, but who will get the nod and who will get the boot? Let's take a look at the likely suspects.

Perhaps no position will have a fresh face making a bigger impact this year than place-kicker, a position that needs to get back to basics, regain consistency and increase confidence in the team, staff and fans. With Robbie Gould wrapping up his college career in Happy Valley, the Lions are in the unique position of having not one or two, but three kickers who were each solid in the high school ranks. Let's take a look at who the candidates are and what they have to offer Penn State as we approach the spring sessions which open on March 28th.

Kickers:

Patrick Humes: The "veteran" of the group, Humes is the only returning place-kicker for Penn State this year. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound, 4.6/40 kicker was a PIAA Class AAA championship game participant his senior year and helped his Pine-Richland squad win the WPIAL Class AAA title.

Named to the Class AAA Greater Allegheny team, he turned down a scholarship offer to UConn to walk on at Penn State. Humes was good enough to travel to some away games last season, like Wisconsin. He has good mechanics and solid strength. He is said to have "improved significantly" and also has improved his range.

Humes has a good balance of strength, mechanics and accuracy, with none of these traits dominating his abilities. Observers feel he has "increased his leg strength, but needs to improve his accuracy on the hashes."

Kevin Kelly: A 5-9, 175 pound, 4.60/40 kicker, Kelly was a four-year varsity starter for Neshaminy High. His leg earned his All-State selections as a sophomore, junior and senior. He has a "powerful, accurate leg" and has the ability to boot balls upwards of 55 yards off the ground and 60 yards off a tee.

This past year Kelly showed his abilities during his 14 games, hitting a perfect 58 for 58 on extra points and drilling 10 for 14 (71 percent) on field goals. He attended camps at Syracuse, West Virginia and Penn State last summer.

Most impressive is the fact he connected on six field-goal attempts from beyond 50 yards during his high school career.

Originally a soccer player, Kelly described how he got into kicking at West Virginia's camp, saying, "I grew up playing soccer, and I've worked on kicking the football since middle school."

Since he committed to Penn State back in early October, Kelly has been working on strength in his hip and knee to direct more power into the ball and to provide more control of his kicks. His greatest strength, aside from his leg, seems to be his focus.

Fans will have the opportunity to see Kevin in action in the Big 33 Classic on July 23 when he plays for the Pennsylvania All-Star squad with future teammates Knowledge Timmons and Sean Lee.

Matthew Waldron: A 6-0, 181-pound, 4.89/40 kicker, Waldron's commitment to Penn State took the Nittany Nation by surprise. Originally thought to be headed to Ann Arbor, Waldron had a change of heart in mid-February, saying "The chance to play for Joe Paterno, the legend, was a big part of my decision. They [Penn State] brought in a scholarship player [Kevin Kelly], so I didn't really think they were interested in me. Then they called a couple weeks ago to see if I was interested in walking on."

A U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection, Waldron was the East winner in the event's Media Day Skills Challenge kicking competition. Waldron was 8 for 9 on field goal attempts for Alabama High last season and was a small-school first-team All-State selection in New York. He might not have as strong a leg as Kevin Kelly or be able to match Kelly's range, but has consistent accuracy.

The fact that Humes has a year head start and this spring to improve may give him the early edge, but you can't count out the young talent of Kelly and Waldron making an impact. Both of these guys have power and accuracy. Plus, there is definitely a reason why the PSU staff offered Kelly a scholarship while most other kickers are invited to walk-on.


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