Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vandy lands big-time kicker

The Vandy coaching staff has put the finishing touches on a phenomenal recruiting class by landing Carey Spear of Ohio, the No. 6 kicker in the nation. (Thanks for the tip, Clark.)

Spear actually booted a 61-yard field goal in a game, and won a game with a 51-yarder as time expired. At a camp in Las Vegas attended by the nation's top prep kickers, he was the kickoff champion, meaning that he puts his kickoffs consistently through the end zone. And to read the scouting reports, this kid eats pressure, which is kind of important for a field goal kicker.

Throw his measurables out the window. With kickers, who cares about their height or bench press or 40 times? Spear happens to be an athlete with a 32-inch vertical leap, but what matters to me is that he's got a powerful leg.

Throw his other offers out the window, too. He had offers from Harvard, Ball State and Miami (Ohio). While teams like Ohio State and USC and Alabama can scarf up all the good defensive linemen and running backs in America, they generally don't take more than one or two kickers. So if the big boys don't need a big-legged kicker at the moment, then underdogs like us are in luck.

He's got three stars from ESPN. You know how many prep kickers get three stars or even
any stars at all? Not many. And Spear is ranked sixth in the nation, which includes punters. When has Vandy gotten the sixth best anything in the nation?

Spear told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "The plan for me is to compete for kickoffs and field goals, then later further develop my punting skills." He didn't start punting until his senior season. Oh, and let's hope he's still developing his kicking too. According to the Plain Dealer story, he missed seven PATs and eight field goals last season, but about 70 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

Which leaves us with two questions:
• What does this mean for Ryan Fowler, the Freshman All-SEC kicker?
• Who's gonna punt?

Maybe we could answer both of these questions by saying that perhaps Fowler, who punted in high school, could be our punter and Spear could be the kicker.

I guarantee you Spear will be competing with Fowler for the starting job in pre-season camp. With a struggling offense and an opportunistic defense, we need the best field goal kicker we can possibly get. May the best man win.

We also need a great punter. Has any punter ever meant more to his team than Upson meant to us in the glorious Music City Bowl championship season of 2008? I don't see us having two all-conference caliber field goal kickers and a walk-on punter. But I don't see us offering a punter in the next week either. One of these two guys has got to punt, especially if Richard Kent or Walt Wepfer aren't the very rare walk-on who becomes an SEC regular.

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