As Nebraska prepares for another run through the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today, we look at the top kickers in the Big Ten heading into 2014.
1. Michael Geiger, Michigan State, 5-8, 186, So.
Coming off a breakout freshman campaign in 2013, sophomore Michael Geiger is part of what is undoubtedly the top kicker/punter duo in the Big Ten this season along with punter Mike Sadler. Geiger set a MSU single-season record by connecting on 93.8 percent of his field goals (15-of-18) to lead the conference and rank fourth nationally. He was also a perfect 8-of-8 on attempts from 40 yards or longer.
2. Brad Craddock, Maryland, 6-0, 180, Jr.
A Lou Groza Award semifinalist last season, Maryland's Brad Craddock should immediately become one of the top kickers in the Big Ten when the Terrapins join the league this year. Graddock lead the ACC with 1.58 made field goals per game in 2013, as he connected on an impressive 21-of-25 of his attempts, including a long of 50 yards.
3. Sam Ficken, Penn State, 6-2, 184, Sr.
Few embody the roller coaster paths of place kickers better than Penn State's Sam Ficken, who has been both the hero and the goat on several occasions during this three seasons with the Nittany Lions. Ficken was 15-of-23 on his field goals last year, but he missed three of his final four attempts and was just 11-of-19 from beyond 30 yards. Still, his experience gives PSU a rare luxury of a veteran kicker in the conference.
4. Taylor Zalewski, Illinois, 6-3, 220, Jr.
Taylor Zalewski's sophomore season wasn't exactly spectacular in 2013, as he was 12-of-17 on his field goal attempts but was only 2-of-5 from 40 yards and out. He's shown he has a much stronger leg than that, as he knocked in a 54-yarder in in 2012, so Illinois is hoping for a bounce back performance from Zalewski in the kicking game this season.
5. Jack Russell, Wisconsin, 6-0, 174, Jr.
Jack Russell was able to supplant Kyle French for Wisconsin's starting kicker job midway through last season, which led to French leaving the team after the bowl game. Though he made a respectable 9-of-13 field goals and a perfect 34-of-34 extra points, Russell will be the one defending his spot against incoming scholarship freshman Rafael Gaglianone, who joins the mix this fall.