Best of Fulmer era - kickers

When it comes to field goals, Phillip Fulmer can't kick 'em ... but he sure can pick 'em.

Every few years, Tennessee's head man signs a kicker who starts for four years and earns All-SEC recognition at some point. This scenario already has played out with John Becksvoort, Jeff Hall, Alex Walls and James Wilhoit, and is in the process of repeating with Daniel Lincoln, who started as a freshman last fall.

Since inheriting Becksvoort from predecessor Johnny Majors, Fulmer has signed five kickers. One (Steven Lee) bombed out but the other four won the No. 1 job as either freshmen or redshirt freshmen and went on to distinguish themselves as all-conference selections.

Oddly enough, three of the four kickers of the Fulmer era (1992 to present) are in-state products and the fourth grew up just across the state line in Bristol, Va.

Given the remarkable success of Tennessee's recent kicking specialists, you'd figure that trying to rate one ahead of the others would be quite a chore. It was. But here's what I came up with:

1. Alex Walls (1999-2002): He's the least heralded of the four kickers rated but he gets the nod due to his deadly accuracy on field goals. His career mark of 77.9 percent (53 of 68) bests Wilhoit by six percentage points, beats Becksvoort by eight and tops Hall by nine. Walls hit a career-best 51-yard field goal vs. South Carolina in 1999 and duplicated the feat in the 2001 SEC Championship game vs. LSU. He also converted on 133 of 137 extra-point tries. A native of Bristol, Va., he was All-SEC as a sophomore in 2000.

2. James Wilhoit (2003-06): Voted All-SEC in 2006, the Hendersonville native's career stats show 59 of 82 on field goals (72.0 percent) and 148 of 150 on PATs. If you throw out an injury-plagued sophomore year his numbers improve to 49 of 65 on field goals (75.4 percent) and 104 of 105 on PATs. Wilhoit made three field goals of 51 yards and one of 50 during his career. Interestingly enough, three of those four kicks came against arch-rival Florida. He also was a tremendous kickoff man.

3. Jeff Hall (1995-98): Tabbed All-SEC in 1995, '96 and '98, the Winchester product made 61 of 89 career field goals (68.5 percent) and 188 of 194 PATs. He nailed a career-best 53-yard field goal against Oklahoma State in '95 and booted a 50-yarder vs. Kentucky later that season. Amazingly, Hall hit 47 PATs in each of his four years as the kicker, going 47 of 49 three times, then 47 of 47 as a senior. His last-second field goal beat Syracuse 34-33 in the 1998 opener and started UT on its way to the national title.

4. John Becksvoort (1991-94): The Chattanooga product connected on 12 of 13 field-goal tries as a junior in 1993 and insists to this day that the official blew the call on the misfire. While he wasn't quite perfect, he was All-SEC and All-America that season. Becksvoort had a career-long 53-yard field goal against Arkansas in 1992 and also made kicks of 51 and 50 yards. For his career he was 52 of 75 on field goals (69.3 percent) and 161 of 161 on extra points. Having a guy who's automatic on PATs is quite a luxury.


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