Placekicking: what are we doing wrong?

Submitted by jmblue on September 13th, 2010 at 3:19 PM

This is something that's bothered me for a long time, going back many years.  Whenever Michigan graduates a kicker, the next season is virtually guaranteed to be a disaster (kicking-wise) while we scramble to find a replacement.  Frequently, the opening-game starter loses his job in favor of a walk-on, who has very limited range.

Meanwhile, down in Columbus, year after year they churn out kickers with fantastic leg strength and phenomenal accuracy.  On Saturday, OSU's kicker went 5-5 on field goals.  What a luxury.  If they had our placekicking, that game could have gone the other way.  And OSU isn't the only program with consistently great kicking.  Iowa is another.  Even Sparty seems to have more consistent kickers than we do.

I've heard that college kickers don't really get coached by the staff - that they just kind of do their own thing and the ST coach loosely supervises.  I can certainly believe that in our case.  But is that what OSU and Iowa are doing?  They've produced too many good kickers for me to believe it's a coincidence.



September 13th, 2010 at 3:24 PM ^

Easy... we're not recruiting 2nd tier, amateur Brazilian soccer players to kick for us.  They won't know the rules, or how big the play is, so there won't be any pressure.  All they have to do is get the ball through the uprights.

We can let them Major in Spanish or set up Portuguese... it's a no brainer.

grand river fi…

September 13th, 2010 at 3:39 PM ^

I think the point about recruiting is dead on.  We need to be looking for Zoltan like place kickers, 2nd tier soccer and rugby players are a massively under utilized resource.

Just as a side not, I have a french friend place kicking for the University of Montreal.  Before winning the position the only time he'd played with a football was when I visited with one around age 10.

Zone Left

September 13th, 2010 at 3:26 PM ^

I can't speak to specifics, but kicking is highly specialized and really difficult to coach well.  The team does need to figure out a way to make field goals consistently, or it will likely cost Michigan a game/games this year.


September 13th, 2010 at 3:31 PM ^

I don't know why, but I have trouble trusting left-footed kickers. The numbers probably dont' bear it out, but something just never seems kosher when they're out there.


September 13th, 2010 at 3:37 PM ^

Placekicking has rarely been strength the last ten years. At least it seems that way to me. Gotta be someone we can recruit to consistently put it in the uprights. This is one of those things that will almost certainly cost you a game or two during a season if you don't have a decent kicker.


September 13th, 2010 at 3:42 PM ^

I'm concerned that this is more a coaching issue than a recruiting one.  Bryan Wright was supposed to be a blue-chip HS kicker, and we gave him a scholarship.  Neither Carr nor Rodriguez ever trusted him to kick FGs in a game, and we turned to walk-ons (who were hardly great)  instead.  Brendan Gibbons is another guy who was a blue-chip recruit, but two games in he's showing real problems in both accuracy and distance.  I'm worried that the problem is when these guys get to Ann Arbor. 


September 13th, 2010 at 3:46 PM ^

This would point to them not being mentally prepared to kick in a college game. I think that is one of those things where you either can handle it or you can't. They probably get to a point where they are thinking too much about the fact that they can't think about the moment and just kick.


September 13th, 2010 at 3:49 PM ^

OK, but then what explains OSU and Iowa?  Where are they finding these guys who are mentally tough enough to consistently drill 50-yarders?   I feel like other programs have moved ahead of us in the development of kickers.  There has to be something they're doing that we aren't. 


September 13th, 2010 at 3:43 PM ^

I think a lot of the early troubles can be attributed to the youth and inexperience of not only Brandon Gibbons, but also might have something to do with the fact that we are going with a back up holder.  The first game I thought the wind had a lot to do with the kicking errors, but Saturday in South Bend I really started to question whether or not we should kick FG's on anything past the 25 yard line.  39 and 40 yard field goals are supposed to be chip shots for a division 1 kicker.  I think Gibbons just needs to settle down, pick his spot, and follow through.  I think that sooner then later these issues will be corrected and things will get better as the season goes on.  Keep the faith, it will get better!


September 13th, 2010 at 3:52 PM ^

Youth and inexperience are a major factor in this area.  The PAT's looked scary against UConn because they kept going farther and farther to the left.  After our last TD, it finally was wide left.  That's why I was holding my breath for every PAT against ND. 

Those two missed FG's in the ND game were really bad though.  Especially the first one which wasn't even close. 


September 13th, 2010 at 3:59 PM ^


I think it's just a matter of restoring (or instilling) confidence in whoever we go forward with in the kicking game.  Gibbons didn't get off to a good start [right foot? ah!]  with that first FG that went short.  The way I saw it (from front row in sec 28) was the ball was spinning WAY too fast for a normal kick.  All three factors came into play: holding, kicking, weather.  If it's a holding problem, the holder probably was too nervous and put too much pressure downwards, or held it too far back to try and overcompensate for the angle upwards.  Gibbons probably came in too low.  He definitely wanted to kick it up (he did that on subsequent FGs and PATs), so he probably overcompensated in that regard by digging into the turf.  The wind definitely didn't help at all and held up what little forward momentum the ball had.

RR knows that, going forward, and will work to get whoever will kick enough reps as practices continue.  I'm confident we'll see a much better performance this Saturday


September 13th, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

We're not properly placing the ball on the ground for the kicker to kick... and then when we do, the kicker does not kick the ball through the goal posts... That's what we're doing wrong...

But seriously... we haven't had a great kicker in years... I'm frankly baffled ... this goes back to the Carr years too... it's just not a priority.


September 13th, 2010 at 4:38 PM ^

M's kicking woes go back to Bo ,(God love him), who didn't consider a kicker a football player. He would give a scholarship to a lineman that would end up 4th string rather than give one to a kicker. It did come back to haunt him.  I think his winning pct for games decided by one score (8 points or less) was in the low 30's and his winning pct for games decided by more than one score was close to 90.

OSU would traditionally have a player who punted only and was great and our punter was many times also a linebacker that punted low line drives (although amazingly we would be on the punt returner in a heartbeat). We all remember the close OSU games lost due to poor fg kicking.

A big deal was made when Bo recruited his first kicker for scholarship. Things have improved in the last 20 years regarding our kicking game but a program like M's shouldn't have to rely on student tryouts.


September 14th, 2010 at 8:54 PM ^

did we forget about the spring game?  a walk on named pauloski was 8 for 8 with a 50 yarder?  where is he and why does everyone forget about this fact?