LAS VEGAS - The Fifth Annual National Kicking and Snapping Spring Event sponsored by NIKE this past weekend was no different than years past. Since 2003, the event has attracted some of the nation's kickers, punters, and long-snappers.
This past Saturday, the story was the same as several top prospects made their way to Las Vegas to get instruction from kicking instructor Chris Sailer and long snapping instructor Chris Rubio.
Kickers and punters from coast to coast weren't affected by long distances and several showed up to the event. Those included several well-known names, like current commits such as Quinn Sharp (Oklahoma State), Blair Walsh (Georgia), and Paul Asack (Duke). Sailer says that those three and many others certainly proved why they received an early scholarship offer and have cemented themselves among the nation's best.
Despite being committed, guys like Sharp still made the long trip to the event.
"I always want to move up in the rankings and get your name out there more," Sharp said. "You want to make sure people know that you're still interested in getting better."
Walsh, headed to Georgia, also said that working with Sailer was a big reason why he came to the event even after making an early decision.
"There are tons of reason to keep coming back," Walsh said. "This is the best in the country by far. He was the reason for getting my name out there and getting that scholarship offer. He teaches the best mechanics, he's involved in it, this is his life, and this is just the best (camp) going out there - no doubt about it."
However, there were other names that surprised and should watch their stock rise.
Phoenix Mountain Ridge's Jeff Locke and Tulsa Union's Tress Way certainly caught the eye of Sailer.
"Jeff Locke was by far the biggest surprise of the camp," Sailer said. "Being able to be one of the top five kickers in the country here and then be one of the top two or three punters in the country here is something. He's the best combination of both.
"Tress made a huge jump for himself. With the ability to do both positions (punter and kicker) makes him very valuable. His field goals are top notch and his punting is scholarship-worthy. Tres and Jeff really jumped off the map."
Another surprise was punter Bradley Nortman who already looked the part physically at around 6-foot-3 and more than 200 pounds. Sailer says that he was another prospect that really did a lot for his stock.
"Well, first of all, he's physically dominant," Sailer said. "He could be a defensive end out here. That's something you look for in a punter. As far as his punting abilities, he pushed himself into the top two or three at the punting position. And he's still a little bit raw. That's the nicest part about him. It shows how good he's going to be when he gets the structure."
There were plenty of other kickers that caught the eye of Sailer and the other instructors.
"Those are a good list of guys looking at just kickers only," Sailer said. "Randy Bullock made a big name for himself today after one of the first events with us. Trent Mossbrucker already has two offers and is a guy that we haven't seen recently but proved why he has those offers."
Two to watch in 2009 will be a pair of prospects from California in Aliso Nigue's Mike Bowlin and Anaheim Servite's Mike Loftus. Both had strong outings during Saturday's camp.
Sailer says that those four prospects stuck out to him in a number of ways.
"Paul Weinstein out of the College of the Canyones really had a streak going today," Sailer said. "I think he only missed on two balls. He just gets great lift on his ball and he's probably that elite JC guy that if a college is looking for a guy to play right away, he's going to be that guy."
"Punting-wise, C.J. Santiago from Orange Coast did a phenomenal job and so did Phillip Zavala and Anthony Hartz. Those three punters would be serviceable at any D-I program."
*** Recruiting Notes: Aside from the committed prospects, there were several prospects that have picked up scholarship offers in attendance at the event. San Diego Cathedral Catholic kicker Brian Stahovich has picked up his first offer from San Diego State as of two weeks ago. Notre Dame, Virginia, and UCLA have shown interest as well.
Casey Barth, making the trip from Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard is on the board with his first offer from Air Force. South Carolina and Marshall are also showing interest.
Mooresville, Ind., prospect Trent Mossbrucker has added his first two offers from Indiana and Wyoming within the last few weeks. He says that all of the schools showing interest are equal on his list.
Justin Sorensen, a BYU commit, says he's solid with his commitment and "that's where he plans on going" to play at the next level. The story is the same for Paul Asack about his commitment to Duke. Asack mentioned that he is solid with his decision.
After surprising everybody, rising prospect Jeff Locke came into the camp with offers already on the table from San Diego State, Washington State, and Wisconsin.
Texas commit Justin Tucker had to return home Saturday and was unable to attend the camp.
*** Long snapping instructor Chris Rubio said that there were several prospects under his direction that stood out. Those included Matt Rios from Phoenix North Canyon, Aaron Brewer of Troy High School, Jeff Palmer of Santa Margarita High School, and Carson Tinker of Riverdale High School in Tennessee.
"They just had the size, the speed, and the consistency," Rubio said. "They're constantly snapping the balls well and the main factor for me is that they can also block. A lot of times you get guys that can't snap and block. Those guys, in no particular order, really stood out to me in the 2008 class."
The recent rule change of moving kickoffs back to the 30-yard line will obviously affect several areas of the game in college football. Sailer agrees that it will not only be a huge change on the game itself, but also the way kickers are evaluated.
"A kickoff guy is so valuable," Sailer said. "A real premium is now on hang time and big legs. Coaches are looking at more potential. They may see a guy who has a big leg and even though he's not making great kicks, they can groom him."