April 8, 2012

Freshmen kickers could play key role in 2012

Incoming freshmen kickers Nick Jordan of Coppell and preferred walk-on Nick Rose of Highland Park are well aware of the run Texas kickers have been on dating to Dusty Mangum's game-winning field goal against Michigan in the Rose Bowl capping the 2004 season.

That stretch has included the school's top three most accurate kickers in a career - Hunter Lawrence (34 of 39, .872 from 2006-09); Justin Tucker (40 of 48, .833 from 2008-110; and Ryan Bailey (25 of 30, .833 from 2006-09).

After Texas' less-than-stellar spring kicking field goals with Ben Pruitt and William Russ, Mack Brown said no kicking chores - field goals, punting or kickoffs - had been won and that an open competition would occur in the fall.

To be fair, Russ had a strong spring game punting and has shown to be capable on kickoffs. Still, Mack Brown wasn't ready to anoint anyone.

Orangebloods.com caught up with Jordan and Rose to gather their thoughts on the looming battle and on continuing Texas' recent run of field-goal kicking.

"It's nice knowing there's been a long line of great kickers, and I'm the next one," Jordan said. "But it's kind of a little pressure because if I don't play to their standards, which hopefully I will, but if I don't, I might get some ridicule, because they've had such good kickers in the past.

"I'm hoping to continue the legacy of great kicking there."

EYEWITNESS TO GREATNESS: Jordan witnessed in person one of the biggest field goals in Texas history on Thanksgiving night last year as Tucker booted a 40-yard field goal to take down Texas A&M as time expired in what is the last scheduled game between the two rivals.

"Both my parents went to Texas A&M," Jordan said. "So we made a point to be there. And I think Justin beating A&M on a last-second field goal was probably the most memorable thought I have about Texas' kicking.

"The one Justin hit was definitely impressive."

Jordan sat in between his parents during the game at Kyle Field.

"Every time Texas did something good, I was standing up and cheering while my parents and the rest of my family who went to A&M were just staring at me," he said.

"But when Tucker made the field goal, I didn't want to be the obnoxious fan who jumps up, so in my mind, I was cheering really loud and I just kind of bent down and clapped.

"I would have felt bad the other way around, so I didn't want to rub it in their faces."

THAT COULD BE ME: After the ball went through the uprights he thought about how it could be him in that position for Texas.
"That was definitely something I was thinking about during the game," Jordan said.

Jordan may already be the favorite to kick field goals at Texas in 2012.

He won MVP honors at Texas' kicking camp last summer in which kickers were eliminated upon missing two field goals. Jordan said he missed one from 40 yards and didn't miss again, winning the event with a kick from 60 yards. Jordan even hit from 61 yards just for fun before finally missing from 62 yards.

IS JORDAN THE MAN?: Even Rose has all but conceded the field-goal kicking job to Jordan. The two faced off at Jamie Kohl's kicking camp in Wisconsin last summer in which Rose finished ahead of Jordan in kickoffs but was no match for Jordan in the field-goal competition.

"I know Nick Jordan has a lot of pressure on him for field goals this year," Rose said. "But I think he can handle it, because he's a good field goal kicker.

"Hopefully, I can contribute. Maybe they'll let me kick a couple field goals if we're way up in a game or if Nick (Jordan) gets bored or has kicked a bunch in one game.

"My main focus is really kicking off and hoping to get to punt, even though Will Russ did well in the spring game."

KICKOFF SPECIALIST?: Rose was discovered for his kickoffs by Stacy Searels while Searels was at a Highland Park game scouting an offensive lineman who had committed to Duke. Searels told Major Applewhite about Rose booming kickoff after kickoff through the end zone.

Applewhite then invited Rose to Texas for a visit, where he was told there was no scholarship available but there could be one next year if he performed well.

"He's the best kickoff guy I've had in some 35 years of coaching," Highland Park coach Randy Allen said of Rose. "And I don't think he's realized his potential.

"He's got an unbelievable leg. And if he can get the field-goal thing down. He's just so inexperienced. But if he can get that down, he'll be a factor there, too."

UNTAPPED TALENT: Rose has only been kicking footballs for two years after years of playing soccer. Rose moved to Highland Park from Copperas Cove before his junior year in high school because his father got a job in the Dallas area. Rose said he decided to move from kicking soccer balls to kicking footballs upon the move.

"I knew how big football was at Highland Park, so I wanted to meet new people and see if I could compete," Rose said.

By the middle of his junior year, he was noticed by Dallas area kicking coach Scott Blanton, who used to kick at Oklahoma, "which is kind of scary," Rose laughed.

But Blanton set up Rose with opportunities to practice with several college kickers and even former Highland Park star Daniel Sepulveda, now the punter for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'm becoming more consistent on field goals, but I really hope to compete for the kickoff job and punting jobs right away," Rose said.

IN DEMAND: Jordan, meanwhile, picked Texas over Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Illinois.

As soon as he got the offer from Texas, after winning MVP honors at the UT camp last summer, he took it.

"I don't punt that much," Jordan said. "I don't know how much they're going to want me to punt. I'll keep it up if they want me too."

Coppell coach Joe McBride said Jordan had the respect of his teammates.

"And not every kicker has that," McBride said. "His teammates like him and respect him because, when we would do off-season, he didn't go off somewhere and kick balls. He did offseason workouts and went through the grind with the kids. They appreciated that."

Jordan's longest field goal in high school was 46 yards. He had a game against Hebron as a sophomore when he had to make a 32-yarder with a minute left to force overtime (a game Coppell ultimately won). And he had a game against Hebron in which he was 4-for-4 on field goals.

ROOM TO GROW: "He's still a young man," McBride said. "So there's a lot still to be seen. But he's played in some big atmosphere games here at Coppell - at Cowboys Stadium, out in Midland.

"And he's always performed well. It's just a matter of being mentally locked in and taking it up another notch. I think he'll perform well."

Jordan says he looks forward to having game-winning opportunities like Mangum (Rose Bowl 2004 season), Lawrence (Big 12 title game in 2009), Bailey (2006 at Nebraska and 2007 at Oklahoma State) and Tucker (A&M in 2011) have had.

"If it's going to be done and someone's going to do it, I'd rather it be me," Jordan said. "Any field goal should be the same pressure-wise. Obviously it's not. But in your head, it should feel the same."

Have his A&M alum parents recovered from Tucker's game-winning kick in College Station last Thanksgiving?

"There's a little bit of rivalry in the house," Jordan said. "But they were ultimately happy for Justin, because they knew that was a position I could be in soon."



 

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