2012 football position by position: kicking
As we’re just weeks away from the start of the football season, it’s time to take a detailed position-by-position look at the 2012 EMU football team. This is our time to refresh our memory about returning players, and learn a little about the new faces. Since several of the NCAA rule changes we just looked at will impact special teams, it seems fitting that we continue this series there.
It’s a small squad, with four starters and four back-ups, one each at each position.
Presumptive starters: Mike Zupancic (long snapper), senior; Jay Karutz (punter), senior; Kody Fulkerson (place kicker: PATs and FGs), junior; Mike Yocum (place kicker: kickoffs), redshirt sophomore.
Zupancic redshirted his first year and has started all 36 games since then. I’ve never particularly noticed his play, which is pretty much what you want from a long snapper — usually if you notice the long snapper it means he messed up — and there’s no reason to think he won’t be fully up to the task in 2012.
Karutz never played American football until arriving at EMU, having grown up with Australian rules football, which is more like rugby. In 2010 he had a pretty good season highlighted by a stellar game at Miami, in which two of his four punts were downed inside the 1-yard line and he broke a school record for average punting distance in a single game that had stood since 1956. In 2011, with a better offense, Karutz was often kicking from farther forward on the field, so the emphasis was more on direction and precision than distance, and he excelled there, ranking first in the MAC and eighth nationally in landing punts inside the 20-yard line. He can certainly still kick for distance when needed, as he boomed a 62-yarder against Western Michigan. This year, I expect that he’ll continue to be called on less for distance than for precision, and I’m confident that he’s up to the task.
Fulkerson was the kickoff specialist in 2010, but last year he left those duties mostly to Yocum and focused on PATs and field goals. He made 27 of 30 PATs (90% — well below the national average, which was about 95%) and 14 of 21 field goals (67% — roughly the national average). He was 8-for-8 on field goals 20-29 yards long (meaning the snap was from approximately the 3-yard line to the 12-yard line — rule of thumb with field goal distances is to include 10 yards for the end zone depth and about 7 yards for the snap), and his season long was 48 yards against Toledo.
After walking-on/redshirting in 2010, Mike Yocum was the primary kickoff place kicker in 2011. He totaled 2,960 yards on 48 kickoffs (61.7 yards per kick) He had five touchbacks, four kickoffs that went out of bounds, and none of his kickoffs were returned for touchdowns. As I mentioned the other day, the NCAA rules changes mean that Yocum will be increasingly called on to kick for precision, more like a punter, than for distance.
Depth: Matt Bowman (long snapper), senior; Owen Dubiel (punter), redshirt sophomore; Brendan Renius (place kicker), freshman; Dylan Mulder (place kicker), freshman.
Matt Bowman has only played one game in his career, but that’s one game more than any of the other back-ups. That’s how it goes at these positions.
Update: I should have included holder in this post. Last year the holder was third-string quarterback Austin Karcher, who graduated. Alex Gillett was listed as the back-up, but I think it’s unlikely that the starting quarterback will be the primary holder. I’d expect it to be a quarterback farther down the depth chart, possibly Iannotti, Mioduszewski, or Simpson.
Read what Hustle Belt has to say about all the MAC field goal specialists, where they rate EMU 10/13, which is probably generous, and punters, where they rank EMU 7/13 by unfairly focusing just on distance. Doesn’t look like they got into evaluating the kickoff specialists, long snappers, or holders, so we’ll just pretend EMU is best at those positions. 🙂