College kicking. What’s the deal with that? There are times when kicking a field goal in college seems to be akin to attempting a Hail Mary. If your team manages to make one, send the ball to the College Football Hall of Fame. If your team makes two? Oh baby, Lou Groza Award candidate. College kickers are a horror show.
This is a bit of an exaggeration, obviously. But seriously, what is up with college kickers sucking so bad?
Is it the hashmarks?
College football hash marks are 40 feet apart. They are less than half that wide in the NFL, at 18.5 feet. This creates strange angles for college kickers when the ball is spotted at the either side of the hash marks, especially from short distances. They sometimes look like rugby players kicking so far across their bodies. If you had to give college kickers a mulligan, it would be for these types of kicks.
But what about the kicks they miss that are lined up right down the middle of the fucking field? Some of them don’t even hit the damn net behind the goal posts. Stanford’s Jet Toner (great name) missed two of these types of field goal attempts against Oregon this past week. He missed four times on the afternoon. Four.
Is it the ball?
College footballs are roughly an inch smaller than NFL balls. Kicking a bigger ball makes it easier to control and be accurate with, so the one inch can make a difference.
Does it make so much of a difference that it’s understandable to miss kicks under 30 yards, though? No, no it doesn’t. That’s not excusable. I don’t care if you’re kicking a Nerf ball; it is the only thing you are trained to do. Those field goal attempts have to be three points every time.
Maybe they just suck
NFL kickers are the cream of the crop among the college ranks, as is the case with every other position in the pros. I understand that. But seriously, does any other position have as big of a drop-off from the NFL to college?
NFL kickers are machines. What’s more, any deviation from being near-automatic gets you canned in a week. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 10-year vet; if you miss a few kicks in back-to-back games, the organization might be exploring other options. It’s a cut-throat business for NFL kickers.
Maybe it would make a difference if college coaches were harsher on their kickers? I don’t know. What I do know is that the vast majority of college programs, even the blue bloods, do not have NFL-caliber guys lining up for field goal attempts. There’s pro-level talent at practically every other position, but kicker? Nah. Thank the football gods the next time your team puts one through the uprights.
It’s good to appreciate the minor miracles in life.