After converting on his final 14 field goal attempts to end his true freshman season, expectations were high for kicker Rafael Gaglianone entering his sophomore year. In reality 2015 had a lot of ups and downs for the Brazil native.
Starting with a back injury that caused to miss all of the spring, Gaglianone’s conditioning and rhythm was off early on and led to some uncharacteristic misses from high-percentage distances. At the same time Gaglianone hit some big kicks throughout the year, proving that he is still a valuable commodity for Wisconsin’s special teams.
Stats: Went 18-for-27 on field goals (66.6 percent), with a long 49 yards, and 40-for-40 on extra points in 2015. For his career, Gaglianone is 37-for-49 (75.5 percent) and 99-for-101 on extra points.
Strengths: Despite the inconsistency, Gaglianone still demonstrated a strong leg, able to kick for power upwards up to 60 yards if need be. He also claims that his confidence never wavered during last year’s adventures. Despite the hiccups, Gaglianone made game-winning kicks at Nebraska and again against USC in the Holiday Bowl. The kick in Lincoln was especially big for him since he had missed the potential go-ahead field goal with 1:26 remaining. Gaglianone’s ability to have a short memory serves him well, as he has shown that he is strong mentally and able to move on with each kick. That should serve him well considering a projected tough schedule, meaning Wisconsin can’t afford to leave many points on the field.
Weaknesses: The accuracy issues were troubling last year. While he was perfect from 29 yards and in (8-for-8), Gaglianone went 10-for-19 from 30 yards and longer. The good news is that Gaglianone didn’t miss spring football like he did last year, allowing him time to stay in shape and correct the mechanical issues that popped up last year. Gaglianone started to change his kicking style leading up to the bowl game by taking shorter strides. The end result was going 3-for-3 against the Trojans. If Gaglianone can be consistent with each kick as he implements his new kicking mechanics, he should have a bounce back season.
Why he’s #23: Gaglianone’s consistency will help determine whether head coach Paul Chryst elects to go for a long field goal or a punt. With Wisconsin breaking in a new starting punter, the coaching staff may tend to favor the field goal if they believe Gaglianone can convert. Gaglianone has shown he’s capable, as he went 8-for-11 from 40+ yards last season. Gaglianone’s level of success directly translates to whether Wisconsin puts points on the board or not.
Overall: With his numbers dipping last season, Gaglianone will want to have a strong bounce-back campaign. Outside of changing his kicking approach this offseason to try and maximize efficiency, not to mention prevent over swinging, Gaglianone wants to trim weight to help him get his kicks off faster. If Gaglianone’s new kicking style works, he could emerge as one of the better kickers in the country.