Hokepoints: Kicking Charts

Submitted by Seth on July 9th, 2013 at 11:25 AM

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I got into an argument with a Michigan State fan—yes, right there is the problem—about our respective kickers last year. In true Michigan-Michigan State fashion the Spartan was making points using selective data (Dan Conroy has a better leg!) and the Michigan fan spent way too much time building data and constructing charts to demonstrate a nuanced and supportable conclusion (Dan Conroy has a better leg but Gibbons was money inside the 40).

I pulled kicking data from NCAA's game summaries and managed to get data points on 241 field goal attempts by Big Ten kickers last season. I also plugged each kicker's season into a Sabre.com formula for rating the position created by a guy named Jeff Yutzler, but his formula is WAY too kind in my opinion (as in there were 13 B1G kickers who scored in the A- range or above). For ease I've just ignored blocked FGAs since there's little the kicker can do about those. Table? Table.

Kicker Team 18-30 31-40 41-50 50+ FG% Yutzler%
Jeff Budzien NW 7/7 7/7 5/5 0/1 95% 99.8%
Matt Wile Mich - - 1/1 1/2 67% 99.6%
Brendan Gibbons Mich 7/7 7/7 1/3 1/1 89% 97.7%
Nick Immekus Ill 2/2 - 2/3 - 80% 97.1%
Paul Griggs Pur - 3/3 1/2 0/1 67% 96.9%
Brett Maher Neb 6/7 8/9 3/6 3/5 74% 95.7%
Mike Meyer Iowa 11/11 2/4 4/6 - 81% 95.5%
Dan Conroy MSU 8/8 5/9 10/15 - 72% 94.8%
Mitch Ewald Ind 9/10 1/2 5/6 0/1 79% 94.1%
Drew Basil OSU 4/4 2/4 1/2 1/1 73% 93.2%
Taylor Zalewski Ill 2/3 - 1/3 1/1 57% 92.7%
Jordan Wettstein Minn 4/5 6/8 4/6 0/3 64% 91.7%
Kyle French Wis 3/3 5/7 2/5 - 67% 91.5%
Sam Ficken PSU 8/9 6/8 0/2 - 74% 86.3%
Sam McCartney Pur 2/3 3/4 - - 71% 76.7%
Steve Flaherty NW - 1/1 - - 100% 64.4%
Jack Russell Wis - 0/1 0/1 - 0% 51.1%
Big Ten Total x 73/79 56/74 40/66 7/16 74.89% 94.3%

Michigan: home of high yutz values

This says Michigan's kicking is was really darn good, though low sample size applies for Wile of course. Here's a chart of Michigan and Michigan State field goal attempts last year. X axis and size represent distance, Y axis is the order in which the kicks were attempted. Click bigginses:


Gibbons was  perfect inside 42 yards, though in comparison to the Big Ten he took a lot of kicks in that sweet 25-35 yard range. Wile was obviously the long guy.


Conroy was deployed a lot, and here you see he seemed to have a big hole from 35-45 yards. Inside that he's great, outside of that he's great; for some reason the dude missed a ton of FGs from medium range. Sort him by distance and it reads 13 goods, whiff, whiff, whiff, whiff, whiff, whiff, good, good, whiff, good, whiff, good, good, good, good, whiff, good, good, good. Kickers: weird.

[The rest of the conference after the jump.]


Illinois couldn't decide who their guy was inside 45 yards—outside of that it was Zalewski. They took only five attempts inside 35 yards, not so much because they went for it all the time but because it was rare for the Illini to get inside the red zone (being the 122nd scoring offense out of 124 teams will do that).


Indiana charts a lot like Michigan, with a lot of close attempts and solid efficiency up to 45 yards, after which they're more likely to not chance it.


Meyer is Gibbons-like: perfect in close and iffy after 40. Lol at all those attempts inside the 7 yard line (24 or less).


I think I know where Wettstein's range is. He did improve as the season progressed in that 35-40 range.


Maher had those struggles early which knocked him from the Groza board and they're plenty visible here amidst a lot of trials. A lot of deep attempts here.


Budzien doesn't miss inside a 43-yard try, and doesn't take shots beyond that except for that prayer launched with a minute left in the Nebraska game on 4th and 7 from the Huskers' 36. They lost that game by 1 by the way.

Ohio State2012kicking

Man it's not the Tressel years anymore is it? Meyer seldom called on Drew Basil, who's supposed to be the next in their parade of NFL guys. He was pedestrian in limited attempts.

Penn State2012kicking

Ficken had some adventures, particularly in that loss to Virginia in which he was 1 for 5 and converting one of those whiffs would have been the margin of victory. You'll also note a lot of them were beyond his normal range. PSU started going for it unless they were inside the 20, and Ficken made 'em all.


Here's another short guy/long guy split, with Griggs taking almost all the shots 35 and longer. I don't know how much better McCartney must be since he wasn't all that good despite being handed the easy tasks.


Russell missed the two he tried; the rest were up to French. Wisconsin smartly wasn't kicking FGs once they got about 6 yards from the end zone.

Data are here if you want to mess around and see what you can see.



July 9th, 2013 at 11:48 AM ^

Michigan went 4 of 4 on Field Goals against MSU (Gibbons had 3 of the 4).  Conroy went 1 of 2.  Michigan won by 2 points...

That is the comparison I care about the most.


July 9th, 2013 at 11:57 AM ^

To me a kicker makes his "money" between 35-50 yards in college, as well as the NFL (more like 55 yds in the NFL) and the fact that Conroy has a giant hole in his game there suggests that he is not as good as Sparty thinks.

Yes, he attempted 11 more FGs than our guys but I sure as hell still have vivid memories of the kicking game under RR so the fact he only makes in 63% of the time from any sort of distance (30-50yrds) makes me say I would rather have our guys out there.      


July 9th, 2013 at 12:18 PM ^

Hey Seth -

You made an editing mistake in your first sentence. You wrote:

I got into an argument with a Michigan State fan—yes, right there is the problem—about our respective kickers last year. 

I think you meant to write:

I got into an argument with a Michigan State fan about our respective kickers - yes, right there is the problem. 


July 9th, 2013 at 12:24 PM ^

Good stuff as usual.  As I've heard numerous times, kickers are perpetually inconsistent, so one year you'll see a guy look like a superstar and the next time he's barely above a walk-on.  I will say, though, that Conroy always struck me as a solid kicker but one who missed way more than you'd expect given his reputation.  Of course, I also feel that Gibbons may be a bit luckier than good right now.  Not that I'm complaining.

Space Coyote

July 9th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

And then something happened in 2012 where he would have a certain FG distance and just choke. Like he literally could do nothing to make it go through the uprights. Like you said: kickers, they are weird. 

Conroy career stats prove that kickers have mental issues:

2012: 0-29: 7/7; 30-39: 6/10; 40-49: 7/12; 50+:3/3

2011: 0-29: 7/9; 30-39: 4/4; 40-49: 4/5; 50+: 2/3

2010: 0-29: 3/3; 30-39: 7/8; 40-49: 3/3; 50+: 1/1

As do Gibbons, if only because he missed everything in 2010 and has been extremely consistent since.



July 9th, 2013 at 2:13 PM ^

I recall Lloyd Carr mentioning something about Garret Rivas not getting the ball up high enough for his kicks, resulting in blocks early in his career. Sure, blocking is a huge part of kicking, but it is that way for all facets of football. You can have a wide open hole and a running back will still run into the backs of his OL.

I'm glad that Gibbons has turned it around. I feel confident in our kicking game going into this season. Can't wait for it to begin!!!

Space Coyote

July 9th, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

Because it surely can be a function of both. It's hard to say without seeing every kick if the defense got a big push or if the kicker didn't get it up high enough.

FWIW, a lot of young college kickers struggle getting the correct trajectory because they are kicking off the ground rather than a tee like they were in high school. That's why you'll see a lot of young guys get more kicks blocked.


July 10th, 2013 at 2:19 PM ^

I agree.  The numbers are a little questionable without the blocked kicks.  A blown assignment by the line isn't the kicker's fault, but a low trajectory kick certainly is.  In this post, a kicker would be better off getting a long distance kick blocked rather than properly getting it up but missing short of the goal post.  I also agree that there's no way to know who's to fault on a blocked kick without checking out each kick.  Someone had some tape to watch!

Wee-Bey Brice

July 9th, 2013 at 6:53 PM ^

I prefer not to argue with Sparty fans about anything seeing as though they argue mostly with their hearts and facts just aren't high on their priority list.