By Dave Te Thomas
There is a decent crop of placekickers and punters available for the draft, but none are expected to be taken on the first day, if at all. Most NFL teams tend to concentrate on drafting players at other positions, then bid for the services of the rookies here on the free agent market. There are a few interesting prospects that are worthy of late round consideration, however.
Teams looking for placekickers have been keeping tabs on Jeff Chandler, who has great leg strength, and Hayden Epstein, who like Dorsch, is known for his kickoff prowess. Chandler could go at the end of the draft, but Epstein is likely to be joined by Tim Duncan, David Greene, Cameron Peterka, Adam Stiles and Ryan White in seeking employment via the free agent venue.
While he's no Ray Guy, the powerful kicking leg of Dave Zastudil is sure to capture interest in a team looking to replace their punter. Zastudil has ranked among the top five punters in each of his last three seasons. Casey Roussel is a Mark Royal type who puts all of his weight (which he certainly has plenty of) behind his punts. Jeff Ferguson is a master of the coffin kick. Craig Jarrett is another directional punter with tons of experience kicking in poor weather conditions. Adam Wulfleck looks like he should be a linebacker instead of a punter, but he has great leg extension that gets him height and trajectory behind his kicks. Other punters that will get invites to training camp are Mike Abrams, Joe Webb, Alan Cox, Steve Fitts, Scott Kurz and the ever-colorful Nick Murphy, a Sean Landetta clone.
They say the two hardest things in life to find is a good woman and a deep snapper. If you find a lady that can deep snap, you have a perfect world, but you only let her out on Sundays. Deep snapping is a true, but dying art form. Just look at how many teams carry a player on their roster to handle just those chores. This year, the best of the snappers is UCLA's Jeff Grau, but Marshall's Chris Massey is another who could see himself snapping in the NFL next year.
MAKING THE GRADE…C-…There is talent here, but outside of Travis Dorsch, Dave Zastudil and possibly Jeff Chandler, there are nothing but free agent types to choose from.
Cream Of The Crop
Positives: Well-proportioned with a solid frame, thick thighs and long legs…Has superb hands, making proper adjustments to the off-target snap…Holds for placements and field goals…Has outstanding leg strength…Adjusts to pressure well and can improvise when his protection breaks down…Two-step kicker with an average of 1.21 in his touch-to-toe mechanics…Gets excellent rise and turnover behind his kicks…Has solid control with good hang time (4.2 second average)… Shows accuracy placing his attempts inside the 20-yard line…Has the large. Soft hands needed to field the ball in poor weather conditions… Mentally tough and not aftraid to run with the ball… Shows functional aggression getting downfield to lend support for the coverage unit…Has great lower body flexibility and bend, showing proper extension and hip flexibility in his ball release.
Negatives: Has all the intangibles, but will on occasion kick across his body, which causes his ball position to be off a little bit…Otherwise, there are no flaws in his game.
The left-footed conventional style punter became the first All-American to perform for the Bobcats since Cleve Bryant in 1970…The only player to lead the Mid-American Conference in punting four-straight years…Holds the school's career-record with a 44.6-yard punting average…Owns the top four season performances on Ohio University's season-record list…Punted 207 times for 9225 yards, with 61 attempts for longer than 50 yards, 60 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, 27 kicks resulting in fair catches and 28 more resulting in touchbacks.
REMINDS YOU OF… Mark Royals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Very few flaws, if any in his game.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Should be one of two specialists taken in the draft, with the Vikings a likely suitor.
Best Of The Rest
Positives: Long-limbed athlete…Outstanding kickoff artist (68-76-yard average) who consistently kicks to the goal line with impressive hang time (4.78-5.01 second average with an 8x4 alignment)…Takes a 3x3 approach in his field goal attempts, getting good elevation and quickness to the kick (1.23-1.3 second average)…Demonstrates the proper leg swipe and swing, getting good explosion on contact…Has solid directional type quickness and shows good ball control on kickoffs…Able to kick in poor weather conditions, adjusting to handle the elements and has the leg strength to kick into the wind…Smooth open field runner who shows toughness and aggression as a tackler on special teams…Hits the ball squarely and is consistent in his approach and rhythm… Shows accuracy on his punt attempts, with the ability to control and place the ball…Has soft hands (hands catcher) with the agility and flexibility to field the off-target snaps with ease…Two-step punter who quickly adjusts to pressure, showing great coordination and the ability to improvise…Has good mechanics and knows how to angle his punts towards the sidelines to take away the field for the returner…Consistently turns his punts over, getting good rise and trajectory behind his attempts.
Negatives: While he has learned to hit the ball squarely, he will every so often hit it flat… Struggles some refocusing after an important miss…Needs to improve his field goal attempt footwork, as he is adequate with his strike, yet, looks effortless at other times.
The most decorated kicker in school history,, Travis holds the distinction of being the only player in NCAA annals to be a finalist for all three of the prestigious postseason awards given to special team players - the Lou Groza (outstanding kicker), Ray Guy (outstanding punter) and Mosi Tatupu (outstanding special teams players Awards…He also became the only player in Big Ten Conference history to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors as both a placekicker and punter…He holds the Big Ten Conference career-records with 355 points scored and 68 field goals made, topping the previous marks of 342 points by Dan Stultz of Ohio state (1997-2000) and 65 field goals by Todd Gregoire of Wisconsin (1984-87)…His 151 PATs broke the school's all-time record and rank fifth in conference annals…As if honors from the football field were not enough, he also garnered national academic accolades…Handling the bulk of the punting duties for the first time as a senior, he proceeded to lead the nation in that category…A tough-as-nails type, he also relished his duties on special teams, leading the punt coverage unit in tackles as a senior…His 48.47-yard punting average set a school career-record…Owns four of the five best punting performances in school history.
REMINDS YOU OF… Don Cockroft, ex-Brown. Not since the era of Cockroft and Frank Corral has a specialist been equally adept at handling multiple kicking chores.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Any team looking to save a roster spot (San Francisco?) could not find a better kicker to answer that call with his ability to fill in as a kicker and punter.
Positives: Displays sure hands, with the ability to field the low snap outside the framework… Runs fluidly and is very flexible…Has a solid leg swing and extension that generates good foot explosion…Two-step punter who gets good rise with excellent follow-through (very high in which he crosses his body with his feet) on his attempts…Has a knack for directing his kicks towards the sidelines to cut off the field for the returner… Consistently is able to turn the ball over…Very cool under pressure and shows the leg strength to kick in poor weather…Displays quick hands and adjusts smoothly while serving as the holder for placements and field goals…Has a great work ethic (first guy in and the last guy to leave)…Very consistent in his focus and mechanics… Has both control and power behind his punts (can place it short, long or near the sidelines).
Negatives: Bit deliberate and slow with his handling point (1.37-second average), but has few, if any other flaws in his game.
Right-footed conventional kicker who has started the last three years…Very dedicated to his craft, putting in the extra hours in the weight room and film room…Had only one punt blocked during his career, and that was due to breakdowns in his blocking upfront…Had 178 punts for 7802 yards (43.8 avg) with 34 of his attempts downed inside the 20-yard line…Only Ken Sanders (8160, 1968-70) and Chip Clark (9917, 1990-93) gained more yards punting in school history… His punting average of 43.83 yards established a Green Wave career-record, topping the previous average of 41.51 yards by Brad Hill (1994-98).
REMINDS YOU OF… Jeff Feagles, Seattle Seahawks. Not only kicks for distance, but has a great spin and turnover that makes it tough to field his boots.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Could be the answer the Jets are looking for at the tailend of the draft.
Positives: Has very good leg strength on punts and kickoffs…Gets the ball off quickly, despite a three-step punting approach…Effective pooch punter who knows how to angle his attempts towards the sidelines…Shows a powerful strike and follow-through…Has sure hands to handle the bad snap…Drives for distance on kickoffs, getting good trajectory…Averaged in the mid-four-second rang in regards to punt hang times…Can handle kicking vs. the elements (bad weather)… Has the athletic ability to lend some support as a tackler and can also elude running on fake punts.
Negatives: Jack-of-all-trades and a master of none…Needs to refine his three-step approach when punting, even though he gets the ball off quickly…Has poor snap-to-toe technique as a field goal kicker and will more than likely gain attention for his kickoffs rather than his placekicking and punting duties…His field goals lack height, resulting in blocks…He also does not show any consistency making three-pointers beyond the 40-yard range.
A candidate for both the Lou Groza (nation's top placekicker) and Ray Guy (nation's best punter Awards, Hayden has also excelled in the classroom, garnering Big Ten Conference academic honors…Very effective at pinning the opponents inside the 20-yard line, he finished his career with 167 punts for 6657 yards (39.9 avg), including 50 attempts that were downed inside the 20-yard line…Scored 163 points as he connected on 26 of 42 field goals and 85 of 88 extra point attempts.
REMINDS YOU OF… Chris Gardocki, Cleveland Browns. Like Gardocki, handling both kicking duties is hurting his career. He has to follow Chris' route, give up placekicking and concentrate on punting.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Actually is a case to be made here on why kickers should only concentrate on one duty. If he remains a punter, he'll be around for a few years. If not, get a business suit and get on with life, kid.
Second Day Possibilities
Positives: Has good muscle definition in his thighs and calves…Shows good hands to field and adjust to the snap…Has effective leg strength and shows good leg extension… Displays solid accuracy and placement on his attempts inside the 50-yard line…Can kick into the wind, properly adjusting the direction and knows when to drive the ball low…Can also handle field goal duties in an emergency.
Negatives: Lacks overall muscle development…Has too many kicks blocked due to his inconsistency in his approach steps and misdirection on his attempts…Can be rattled under pressure…Sluggish in his attempts to get his punts off in a timely fashion…Gets good height on his boots, but needs to improve his leg drive, as he tends to shank a few… Varies between a two-step to a three-step approach and needs to refine his ball drop.
A finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's premier punter, Jeff has been a model for consistency in his four years as a starter…Finished his career with 234 punts for 10,053 yards (43.0 avg), breaking the old school career-records of 185 punts for 7617 yards by Brad Reddell (1989-92) and 42.3-yard average by Jack Jacobs (1939-41).
REMINDS YOU OF… Jason Baker, San Francisco 49ers. Solid directional punter, but needs to refine his ball drop, much like Baker did last year, to be successful.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Will be a priority free agent, but if he can add trajectory behind his attempts, he'll be a keeper.
Positives: Has a long and lean muscular body…Shows the leg strength to consistently get his kickoffs five yards deep…Has a very quick kicking release (1.28 seconds)…Very accurate on his placements…Has the leg strength to kick in poor weather conditions…Cool under pressure… Right-footed upright kicker who will put in the time needed in practice to improve…Gets good hang time (4.2 seconds) and distance (averaged 66 yards) on his kickoffs.
Negatives: Made less than 85% of his conversions during his career as his kicks tend to come off low with little rise…Gets marginal height on his kickoffs and needs to refine his leg follow-through.
Ranks as one of the nation's premier place kickers…The former walk-on closed out his career as Florida's all-time leading scorer (368 points) and field goal kicker (67 made)… His 368 points rank third in Southeastern Conference annals while his 67 field goals rank fourth and his field goal percentage (83.8%) rank second…A redshirt senior, who was granted an extension of his eligibility by the NCAA last year…A semifinalist for the Groza National Place-Kicker of the Year Award in 1999 and 2000, he holds the school's post-season record with a 51-yard field goal in the 2001 Sugar Bowl.
REMINDS YOU OF… Kris Brown, Houston Texans. Can drive the ball deep, yet has problems with chip shots.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Look for a team like Kansas City to bring him into camp for competition, but he still needs some refinement before he will stick in the pros.
Positives: Very capable of unleashing the long distance punts…Has the leg strength needed to explode into the ball…Has good hands to field the bad snap…Shows good rise and trajectory on his kicks…Very accurate placing the ball inside the sidelines and is effective pinning the pigskin inside the 20-yard line…Handles pressure well and is not afraid to race upfield to make the tackle on the punt return…Has the ability to pin the returner near the sideline to cut down on his return space.
Negatives: Not the quickest getting off his attempts…Has a 2 ½-step approach that has seen several punts blocked in the past due to him being deliberate in the quickness of his kicks… Shows inconsistency kicking into the wind.
Three-year starter and one of the most popular athletes on the team, having his own "cult" following on the school's athletic web site…Has come a long way since dropping his first-ever punting attempt as a freshman…Began his college career at Scottsdale (Az.) Community College in 1998, taking over the punting chores for ASU the following year…Finished his career with 206 punts for 8298 yards (40.3 avg)…66 of his 206 attempts were downed inside the 20-yard line.
REMINDS YOU OF… Chris Mohr, Atlanta Falcons. Won't kick for distance, but you won't be able to return many of his punts, either.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… This kid can drop a punt on a dime. There is always a place for a directional punter and the Vikings have to be taking notice.
Others To Watch Out For
Positives: Has a tall, leady body frame with good muscle development…Holds for placements… Shows good hands and quick reactions to field the poor snap…Gets proper leg extension, capable of exploding into the ball to gain distance…Three-step kicker with quick snap-to-toe quickness (1.26-second average)…Can handle kicking into the wind… Maintains concentration under pressure…Willing tackler with good speed to get down-field to lend support on the return… Steps forward with an extended kick point, striking the ball with proper lift.
Negatives: Seems to rush his kicks at times, not showing consistency in taking his steps…Lacks consistency with his drop and strike point…Only gets marginal rise and trajectory behind his attempts…Seems more stats-oriented as he struggles with the pooch punt (lack of leg control)… His hang time is only marginal (4.0-second average)…Needs to pay more attention to details, doing what is asked according to the situation, rather than going for big numbers (rather drive the ball for distance instead of directing his kicks)… His inability to gain quick height on his kicks has resulted in a high amount of blocked punts in recent years…Has very small hands (8-inch width).
Mainstay for the special teams unit since arriving on campus as a freshman…Right-footed conventional punter who also handles holding chores for placements and field goals… Finished with 239 punts for 10,255 yards (42.9 avg) and 63 attempts downed inside the 20-yard line…Only Ralf Mojsiejenko (279, 1981-84) attempted more punts in school history… His 42.9-yard average rank fourth on MSU's career-record list behind Ray Stachowicz (43.3 avg, 1977-80), Mojsiejenko (43.8) and Greg Montgomery (45.2, 1985-87).
Positives: Linear and tall, with a long-legged structure…Has excellent snap-toe (1.35-second average) and kickoff hang time (4.15-second average, with a 65.8-yard average)… Medium range kicker who handles pressure well…Has a smooth release and good leg strength…Has the ability to get the ball to the goal line with consistency…Shows a natural left-to-right hook on his field goal attempts.
Negatives: Has to improve the height and trajectory on his kickoffs…Ball does not rise as well as expected, due to a slight twitch he's developed before connecting…Can get good power behind his kicks, but his field goal accuracy is still a work in progress.
One of the finest kickers in the nation, he has also proven to be a dangerous threat as a runner on fake field goal attempts…A fearless tackler on special teams, he can also fill in as an emergency punter…Closed out his career fourth on the school's career-record list with 297 points (only R.D. Lasher, 320, 1987-90 has scored more points among OU kickers)…Made 44 of 65 field goals for the Sooners, breaking Tim Lasher's old school all-time record of 43 three-pointers (1983-86)…Successful on 153 of 158 extra point attempts…Only Tim Lasher (168) and R.D. Lasher (194) had more conversions in Oklahoma annals.
Positives: Four-year starter who gets great hang time on his kicks, making them very difficult to return… Smooth & flexible extending his leg…Has quick touch-to-toe mechanics, showing superb leg whip & extension…Very adept at getting the ball high in pooch punt situations…Has a low release point, getting the ball off with good leg power.
Negatives: Slow and deliberate with his approach (get-off times average 1.44-1.5 seconds)… Struggles with his hands fielding the high snap…Needs to take a better approach, as he's generally a 2 ½-3 step kicker.
Solid directional punter who does a great job of angling his attempts towards the side- lines to cut off the returner's field space…Handled kickoff chores, in addition to punting duties the last two years…Can also perform as a placekicker…Holds the school's career-records and ranks fifth in Big Ten Conference annals with 256 punts for 10,671 yards (41.68-yard average).
Positives: Solid kickoff artist with the ability to consistently put those kicks inside the 10-yard line…Gets good power behind his kicks and shows the leg strength to effectively kick into the wind…Right-footed soccer style kicker who maintains his composure in pressure situations… Gets good height and trajectory behind his attempts, allowing the coverage unit to get downfield and set up to prevent the long return…Has the range to make field goals beyond 40 yards.
Negatives: Has adequate leg strength…Shows inconsistency getting his kicks off quickly…Hang times on kickoffs are at best adequate.
Four-year starter who finished his career as the school's second-leading scorer with 244 points, topped only by Joe Allison (263, 1990-93)…Only Allison (110) had more successful extra point attempts than his 101 in Memphis annals…His 49 field goals were two shy of Allison's all-time school mark (51).
Positives: Solid competitor who can handle all phases of the kicking game…Accurate mid-range field goal artist who gets good lift and extension on his attempts…Handles poor weather conditions with no problems…Cool under pressure…Has the athletic ability and arm extension to adjust and handle the poor punt snap…Shows a lively leg as a punter, with good explosion behind his attempts…Able to place the ball and "pooch" punt and has the composure to not rush his attempts when his blocking breaks down…Has the speed and athletic ability to lend support to the coverage team…Needs only four yards before getting his attempts off.
Negatives: Does not have the leg drive and follow through to make field goals consistently past 35 yards…Needs to get better trajectory behind his placements… Appears methodical in his approach…While he gets good height on his kicks, he will occasionally hit some line drives, resulting in a high amount of his punts being returned… Needs to develop better consistency with his hang time…Needs to speed up his release to prevent his kicks from being blocked.
Joined the Bears after a stellar two-year career at Butler County Community College… Served mainly as the team's punter, but was also called upon to handle long range field goal duties…Finished his career with 32 points on 10 of 20 field goals and two PATs… Punted 151 times for 6336 yards (42.0 avg) with 26 attempts downed inside the 20-yard line.
Positives: Fields the ball cleanly, moving decisively to cover up the bad snaps…Shows the leaping ability to haul in the high snap…Gets the ball off in acceptable time (1.37-second average)…Displays proper follow-through and extension on his kicks, as the ball comes off sharply on the rise…Effective gaining distance down the middle on his punts…Can kick well in poor weather conditions…Poised under pressure and has the athletic ability to run with the ball if his protection breaks down…Will face up and wrap the returner as he heads down field with the coverage unit.
Negatives: Has adequate leg drive…Needs to increase his hang time (4.02-second average) in order to allow the coverage unit to set up…Struggles trying to gain sideline placement on his punts and is more comfortable kicking down the middle.
Two-year starter who has been a model of consistency for the Cougars…Punted 135 times for 5354 yards (39.7 avg) with 32 of his attempts downed inside the 20-yard line…Only 71 of his punts were returned by the opposition.