Forensic Football: Good Kickers Do Both

Steve Spurrier was not only a quarterback but a kicker as well. Usually a punter, he often volunteered to kick extra points when needed. But there is a certain mentality to being a good kicker ...

... you have to learn to play mind games with yourself, and no one plays better mind games than Spurrier.

Now he is looking for a kicker to win those close games for him in his first season at the University of South Carolina.

Spurrier knows there are going to be plenty of close games this year and a good kicker can make or break the positive outcome for an upstart rebuilding team like the Gamecocks.

This is not new for the Head Ball Coach. In his entire career playing and coaching the game of football, he has always either been a kicker or been looking for a kicker. It's the most underrated overblamed most misunderstood position on the field.

And you had better have a backup plan when it comes to kickers as well.

In his NFL debut with the Washington Redskins, Spurrier lost his starter, Brett Conway, to a combo hip-flexor, quad injury. So what did he do? He had Danny Wuerffel kick off in his place.

And the next day Spurrier was out shopping for a new kicker.

That is exactly what South Carolina's kickers need to be aware of this season.

Spurrier is not a patient man when it comes to kickers because he was one, just like he was a quarterback. He expects courage, mental strength and nerves of steel to prevail over the negatives from frail-minded kickers.

In 1962, Steve Spurrier was a Prep All-American. Not only as a quarterback, but as a kicker.

So what does it take to be a kicker in a Spurrier led system on special teams? Reliability of course. Consistency. A strong enough leg to get the ball where it needs to go is always a positive

Bottom line, focus. Focus and a strong, accurate leg. Good kickers have both.

Coach thought he had found it Friday in a walkon kicker from Edgewater High in Orlando, Florida.

"We had a new kicker show up yesterday," Spurrier remarked gleefully on Friday. "Jordan Dachs, a walk-on, and he made everything today. Coach (Ron)Cooper put him out there with the first kickers and dadgum, he made them all."

By Sunday Spurrier was singing a different tune.

"He didn't hit a thing today. He was awful ... didn't hit a dadgum thing," speaking of Dachs.

Kicking is a hit or miss affair - pardon the pun.

With the start of a new week it is a four way race to see who will be the go-to man for the Gamecocks this season.

"They're all in a wad - all four of them right now," Spurrier confirmed.

Josh Brown is the punter. He's consistent and he gets the ball off quicker than the others. Brown will also handle field goal and kick off duties in all likelihood. Field goals within 35 yards at least.

Ryan Succop, the heralded North Carolina kicker has a boomer for a leg but lacks the accuracy right now that usually indicates a lack of focus or a glitch in the mechanics.

It's enough to make Gamecock fans quiver as they remember recent past games won and lost by the fortunes of a young man's leg.

Kickers are like golfers, another sport in which Spurrier excels. They have to overcome the distractions and concentrate on the follow-through among other things.

More importantly, kickers need confidence in themselves and they require confidence from their head coaches and fans.

But confidence from others and from one's self comes from success. From consistency and reliability. From hitting the field goals, no matter the distance, when they matter the most. When everyone is silent and watching.

Some kickers survive by thinking only of the next kicks. And that works for many. Whatever it takes, Spurrier needs to find one in a hurry.

All is not lost so far.

"This scrutiny and perform or get cut mentality from the coaches and fans demands a higher level of skill performance for punters and kickers. Successfully combating this condition depends on the degree of technical knowledge the punter or kicker possesses and how quickly adjustments can be made after poorly hit punts or kicks," writes Bill Renner, a former punter in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers.

Renner continues, "Second or third chances do not come often for punters or kickers who fail to execute their skill. Offensive and defensive players can fumble, throw interceptions, miss blocks, get knocked down, miss tackles, drop passes, fall down and jump off-sides, yet, will only be considered to have had a bad day. Their abilities and position on the team will not be questioned."

The first step is to learn how to kick.

"Without an understanding of the essential techniques that make the ball fly where and how you make it, fixing technique errors, whether on the fly or over a long term is impossible," insists Renner.

"I have witnessed many talented punters and kickers over the past 24 years as a player, coach, and operating punting and kicking camps. The ones that could perform under pressure and on command were the ones with the greatest understanding and control of the mental aspect of the skill."

And that is where Spurrier should come in handy as someone who might contribute above and beyond his head coaching duties - and instead offer advice and words of encouragement to his kickers, even though they are being coached by Ron Cooper.

As it plays out over the next ten days, Steve Spurrier will be watching, waiting for one of the legs on the team to step up and make himself the clear choice come time for the opener.

Yet in the end it will be up to one of the four in the hunt.

Renner says, "For punters and kickers, they must be that fix-it man for themselves. They can bemoan that fact that there is insufficient coaching or they can learn for theirself. The reality is telling theirself to learn for theirself."

Carolina's kickers need to get in front of a mirror and do some soul searching in a hurry. They are almost out of time.

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