Nugent Could Be Prescription For Kicking Ills

The Vikings have struggled to find a consistent field goal kicker with an adequate leg for kicking off. If they are willing to spend a second-round pick on Mike Nugent, they may put that misery behind them. They've shown the interest, and Nugent's statistics and words come from an individual that appears to have the physical and mental makeup of a successful NFL kicker.

Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent says he's not like other kickers — he's a team player who wants to help out in practices.

Practices?

The Vikings would be thrilled if Nugent could just solve their game-day problems, much less contribute anything at all to the offense or defense or water boys during or after practice.

Still, that little insight into Nugent says he could be the Vikings' kind of player, a guy who isn't so fragile he can't handle the pressure of the big-game kick or the prodding of a coach.

In fact, some NFL teams with the toughest coaches have shown an interest in him. The Vikings, Buccaneers, 49ers and Falcons all have Nugent on their radar.

While he said at the combine that he has no expectations about where he'll be drafted, it looks like it will be in the second round. His goal — a lock, if all the draft gurus are correct — is to be the first kicker selected, but he doesn't expect to be the next Sebastian Janikowski on draft day, a first-round selection in 2000 by the Raiders.

"That would be unbelievable if it happened,' Nugent said. "I haven't seen it happen since then. You just hear things about teams just looking at other things ahead of that. I wouldn't expect a repeat of that."

During his Ohio State days, he connected on 88 percent of his field goal attempts and 99 percent of his point-after touchdown tries in his final three years at Ohio State.

He is both consistent and possesses a strong leg, although not "elite" leg strength, according to some draft analyses.

"My goal (on kickoffs) is if I can get a four-second hang time inside the 5, at the 3-yard line or better," he said.

Any NFL team would take that, along with his consistency. Of course, there will be some adjustments at the NFL level — a harder ball, a shorter tee and kicking off 5 yards deeper.

He says the only adjustment he'd make is to take off some hang time on his kickoffs so they wouldn't land at the 15-yard line, where he estimates they'd fall if he kept his 4.4-second hang time.

Pressure also isn't a big issue for the veteran of playing in front of big, passionate crowds at Ohio State. He was told at the combine that 25 percent of NFL games are decided by three points or fewer and asked if that was a daunting proposition for a rookie.

"I think it probably would be for someone maybe who's not a specialist, a kicker or punter," he said. "But I've been doing it for so long, you just notice so many games that are won or lost on the last play."

Later, he added, "One thing NFL kickers have — an unbelievably strong mental approach for the situations they're put in."

But if his mental and physical approach let him down and he hits a bad kick, it doesn't take him long to rebound.

"Probably about 10, 15 seconds," he said. "When I do miss a field goal, I stand there and think about, what did I do wrong? And what can I do on the next one to make sure it doesn't happen again? I don't think, oh my gosh, what happened? I just think of what I need to work on. If you let it affect you kick after kick, it's just gonna get worse."

The Vikings know all about that feeling the last few years. From 2002 to 2004, three different Vikings kickers have gone 23-for-29 (79 percent), 18-for-22 (82 percent) and 18-for-25 (72 percent), respectively, on field goals.

Nugent might just be the prescription to change that headache.



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