Oftentimes, games come down to the final seconds, the outcome completely dependent on the foot of a single individual. Make it, and you’re a hero. Shank it and you’re quickly a pariah. Placekickers have to tune all of that out and focus on a solitary task: kick the football over and through the uprights. Seems an easy enough task, wouldn’t you say?
On the contrary. Good kickers are at a premium. Elite kickers are in in hundreds. Legendary kickers, such as Sebastian Janikowski, Adam Viniatieri, or Mort Anderson come along maybe once or twice in a generation. Truly efficient and accurate kickers, men who are able to block out everything and send a football sailing upwards of 50 yards are the backbone of every single NFL team.
There is a reason that kickers occupy almost, if not all of the top 20 spots in the NFL’s career scoring list. They pick up the insurance points, the field goals and extra points. The little things that end up making a huge difference when the final whistle blows. Without an efficient kicker, the wheels come completely off your ability to keep a lead, as TTUN was able to show us not that long ago.
This is why Drew Basil is probably the 2nd or 3rd most important person wearing Scarlet and Gray on Saturdays.
Basil, a Lou Groza Award Preseason Candidate, is handling 100% of the kicking duties for the 2012 campaign and will be looking to build on his fantastic Sophomore season in which he recorded the third longest consecutive field goals made streak and led the league in FG% with 84.2% (16/19). But it’s more than stats that make a great kicker.
It’s the ability to tune out 100,000 screaming people begging for you to fail. They are focused on you specifically, praying to the deity of their choice that you’ll toe the ball and send it wide right. There is no other play in football in which all attention is focused on one individual to the degree of a field goal attempt. An iron constitution and the focus of a surgeon are both prerequisites to being a placekicker at the collegiate level and even more so on Sundays.
The kicker must endure not only the unruly fans and possible hostile environs, but also opposing coaches that use the nastiest of tactics to try to throw you off your game. Get too confident, or let that seed of doubt grow within you, and that coach will win as you send one dribbling under the crossbar.
Yet it is abundantly clear that Basil is as close to “automatic” as we’ve seen in some time. Barclay was serviceable, but soccer players trying to transition to other sports only happens if you’re name is Tony Meola, Jon Thoma, or you’re in the remake of The Replacements. Not since perhaps Mike Nugent have we seen someone so at ease kicking extra points. Were it not for an unfortunate block against Purdue, Drew would have gone perfect for the season.
Yet his true Achilles Heel is the 40 yard line. From beyond 50 yards is where Basil has missed three of his only 5 career misses. No one is asking for Janikkowski-esque 63 yard attempts, but Basil will likely be forced to attempt at least one or two from beyond 50 yards. If he hasn’t been working on it in the offseason, let me be the first to suggest it to him.
Drew will have stiff competition for the Groza Award, and probably the frontrunner for the hardware comes from within Urban’s own selections. Caleb Sturgis of Florida is the prohibitive favorite to take home the award this year, even coming off of back surgery that has limited his practice time in the offseason. While it is always tough to rank kickers unless you see that once in a lifetime talent, but we at The Empire have good thoughts about Basil’s chance to make the final cut for the award, if he doesn’t have a perfect season and bring another trophy back to Columbus.
Being coached directly by Meyer probably won’t hurt Drew’s chances to have a monster season either. Just take the performance and production of Sturgis while Meyer was a Gator. He’s been named to the Groza Award watch list in every single season save his Freshman, and made the final cut last year before getting beat out by Randy Bullock of TAMU.
If anything is in Basil’s favor, however, it is the man behind the award. A Buckeye himself, Lou Groza played one season before getting shipped off to war, then came back to play for the Cleveland Browns and putting placekicking on the map. Yet only one placekicker in Buckeye history has ever had his name called as a winner. The Nuge took home the trophy in 2004, and we’re confident that if Basil doesn’t prevail this year, he’ll be a lock for the top 5 next season.