Wanted, and very badly: Kickers for black college football

Why can’t anybody kick in black college football?

That may be overstating it a bit — send my apologies to South Carolina State’s Blake Erickson — but, well, not by much.

The only team in either the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference or the Southwestern Athletic Conference to hit every field goal attempt so far is winless Mississippi Valley State — probably because the Delta Devils have only tried three.

In fact, half of the MEAC schools are successful less than 35 percent of the time on three-pointers. The SWAC is slightly better, with only Alcorn State hitting below 35 percent of its field goals. But Jackson State — matching Delaware State, in the MEAC, for futility — is missing 25 percent of its gimme-extra points. Valley is whiffing on almost half of its kicks after touchdowns.

In all, there are only four teams in both conferences with a spotless record for point-after tries — Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Southern and Prairie View A&M. Even Erickson has shanked one.

Make no mistake. It’s ugly out there.

You have Jackson State kicker Reed Gallagher, missing two field goals against SWAC foe Texas Southern last week. JSU lost by three.

“We left six points on the field,” Jackson State coach Rick Comegy said. “Two field goals and we win the game.”

Then there’s Chance Wilson, once 6-for-6 on field goals for the SWAC’s Alabama A&M through the season’s first four games. He’s now missed his last three — most recently, a 21-yarder of last Saturday’s 21-14 loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

“He pushed them during pregame warmups,” A&M coach Anthony Jones said. “I made him kick a few extra ones to get back in line, but there’s something wrong with his mechanics. We’ll get it figured out.”

Sure, there’s Erickson, just named MEAC place-kicker of the week after booting the game winner for South Carolina State last Saturday. (His 10th straight made-kick was the longest of his career.) And Delaware State freshman Mario Diaz-Aviles was also perfect against Morgan State on extra-point tries, while kicking a 32-yard field goal — his first of 2010 — to push the Hornets ahead 24-21 with 8:22 remaining. (You can’t blame him for the Bears’ amazing comeback.)

[Delaware State is moving forward with common-sense determination.]

Credit the SWAC’s Southern University, as well. The Jaguars have bounced back nicely after opening the season with their own lack of special-teams power — allowing a touchdown, turning the ball over on a muffed punt, or surrendering a blocked field goal in each of their first five contests.

In all, William Griswold had three attempts blocked over that span. In one memorable mishap against Mississippi Valley, he tried a 43-yard field goal, but the ball flew off his foot into the line of scrimmage. The Delta Devils’ Markkus Davis returned it for a touchdown, and Valley’s first points of the day.

“Five games in a row, we’ve lost that battle as far as I’m concerned,” Jaguars coach Stump Mitchell said, as October dawned. “And we have to better on special teams.”

Thing is, they have: Southern has crept up to No. 3 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference for made field goals (10-of-14 through last week), and is one of those tied for first in extra points.

But those teams, your South Carolina States and your Southerns, they are simply the exceptions that prove the rule. Trust me.

How about Ryan Estep, missing a game-tying extra point to send his Norfolk State team into a bitter 7-6 loss against Hampton in the Battle of the Bay game two weeks back?

Then there’s Bethune-Cookman kicker Sven Hurd, who began the year on a disastrous five-miss slide, making his team one of only five in the championship subdivision that had failed to make a single three-pointer all season.

He finally hit a 27-yard field goal last week against North Carolina Central. “The monkey,” said Hurd, a redshirt freshman, “was off my shoulders.”

Or it just jumped on to somebody else’s. Hurd has been sharing duties with Kory Kowalski, who (yes) missed a field goal last night as No. 12 Bethune-Cookman dismantled North Carolina A&T 67-17 in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game on ESPNU that was delayed during the first half when the lights went out.

[Will the expanded FCS playoff bracket benefit black college teams?]

Bethune coach Brian Jenkins counters that these struggles can come from issues not necessarily relating to a toe: “I’m not happy with our kickers right now and I’m not happy with our front guys for protection (on kicks),” Jenkins said, earlier this month. “That’s hindering us, and we need to get it corrected.”

The Wildcats, frontrunners though they may be, are dead last in the MEAC for field goals, with a .167 completion percentage.

Injuries have played a role, in some cases. Gallagher, for instance, took over at Jackson State when kicker Jabril Smith went down with a broken ankle. Perhaps unprepared for the new role, Gallagher then opened the year by going 3-of-9 for extra points, and has kept JSU at No. 9 in the overall rankings for PATs.

More often, however, you simply have a lack of talent at this level — driven, perhaps, by an inattention to the position in recruiting — that has become both glaring and more than a little comical.

Everybody makes fun of kickers, until you lose 7-6 in a regional rivalry game.

Right, Norfolk?

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19 comments

  1. "An inattention to the position in recruiting" is exactly what it is. Kickers are not sexy, but when you look at the numbers, they are indeed difference makers. Good stuff Nick!

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  3. “An inattention to the position in recruiting” is exactly what it is. Kickers are not sexy, but when you look at the numbers, they are indeed difference makers. Good stuff Nick!

  4. Aren't you being a bit harsh on Black College Kickers? Cody Parkey, Marvin Kloss, Brandon Tarpley and Michael Palardy were all ranked as the best kickers in the nation. Let's compare their progress to Southern's freshman kicker William Griswold, who was not ranked or even listed by ESPN, RIVALS and SCOUT as a kicker.

    Cody Parkey signed with Auburn. Parkey was ranked by ESPN as #1, RIVALS as #6 and SCOUT as #2 in the country. Parkey has 0 points this season and is playing behind Wes Byrum who has an impressive 75 points.

    Marvin Kloss signed with South Florida. Kloss was ranked by ESPN as the #7 kicker in the nation. Kloss has 0 points this season and is playing behind BONANI who has only 25 points and SCHWARTZ who has only 18 points.

    Brandon Tarpley signed with Central Florida. Tarpley was ranked by ESPN as #15 in the country. Tarpley has 0 points this season and is playing behind Cattoi who has only 33 points and Boyle who has only 7 points himself.

    Michael Palardy signed with Tennessee. Palardy was ranked by ESPN as #18, RIVALS as #2 and SCOUT as #1 in the nation. Palardy has only 8 points this season and is playing behind Lincoln who has only 32 points.

    William Griswold, a Freshman at Southern University, leads the SWAC with 50 points this season, named SWAC Special Teams Player of the Week last 2 weeks in a row and is tied for 21st in all of D1-AA kickers in nation. Blake Erickson is ranked even higher at 15th among D1-AA placekickers.

    I get the impression you feel kicking field goals is easy and automatic. It's not. I watched the Boise State kicker this week miss his first kick from the 20 yard line. That's about a normal PAT range. Griswold has had 3 FGs in the 40 yard range and 7 more of at least 30 yards.

  5. To conclude my previous remarks in defense of Black College kickers, I would admit that the top ranked kickers are not flocking to the HBCUs. You can even make the case that the predominantly white D-1A institutions (PWI) are actually stockpiling all the highly recruited kickers.

    However, if you examine the individual statistics of the kickers that are being stockpiled in PWIs, you quickly realize they are under-performing. Maybe some can't adjust to having to kick the ball off the ground on field goals.

    In the HBCUs, maybe one could argue the quality of the snappers, holders and blocking may be affecting the kicking game. Or that the majority of the high schools that have a history of good kickers also have a soccer team.

    Regardless, kicking success is certainly not due to the color of one's skin. Reggie Roby of Iowa, and later the Miami Dolphins, was a punter, kick off specialist, and was also used for long range field goals. Roby helped popularize the now-standard two-step approach and often wore a watch to gauge his hangtime

  6. Aren’t you being a bit harsh on Black College Kickers? Cody Parkey, Marvin Kloss, Brandon Tarpley and Michael Palardy were all ranked as the best kickers in the nation. Let’s compare their progress to Southern’s freshman kicker William Griswold, who was not ranked or even listed by ESPN, RIVALS and SCOUT as a kicker.

    Cody Parkey signed with Auburn. Parkey was ranked by ESPN as #1, RIVALS as #6 and SCOUT as #2 in the country. Parkey has 0 points this season and is playing behind Wes Byrum who has an impressive 75 points.

    Marvin Kloss signed with South Florida. Kloss was ranked by ESPN as the #7 kicker in the nation. Kloss has 0 points this season and is playing behind BONANI who has only 25 points and SCHWARTZ who has only 18 points.

    Brandon Tarpley signed with Central Florida. Tarpley was ranked by ESPN as #15 in the country. Tarpley has 0 points this season and is playing behind Cattoi who has only 33 points and Boyle who has only 7 points himself.

    Michael Palardy signed with Tennessee. Palardy was ranked by ESPN as #18, RIVALS as #2 and SCOUT as #1 in the nation. Palardy has only 8 points this season and is playing behind Lincoln who has only 32 points.

    William Griswold, a Freshman at Southern University, leads the SWAC with 50 points this season, named SWAC Special Teams Player of the Week last 2 weeks in a row and is tied for 21st in all of D1-AA kickers in nation. Blake Erickson is ranked even higher at 15th among D1-AA placekickers.

    I get the impression you feel kicking field goals is easy and automatic. It’s not. I watched the Boise State kicker this week miss his first kick from the 20 yard line. That’s about a normal PAT range. Griswold has had 3 FGs in the 40 yard range and 7 more of at least 30 yards.

  7. To conclude my previous remarks in defense of Black College kickers, I would admit that the top ranked kickers are not flocking to the HBCUs. You can even make the case that the predominantly white D-1A institutions (PWI) are actually stockpiling all the highly recruited kickers.

    However, if you examine the individual statistics of the kickers that are being stockpiled in PWIs, you quickly realize they are under-performing. Maybe some can’t adjust to having to kick the ball off the ground on field goals.

    In the HBCUs, maybe one could argue the quality of the snappers, holders and blocking may be affecting the kicking game. Or that the majority of the high schools that have a history of good kickers also have a soccer team.

    Regardless, kicking success is certainly not due to the color of one’s skin. Reggie Roby of Iowa, and later the Miami Dolphins, was a punter, kick off specialist, and was also used for long range field goals. Roby helped popularize the now-standard two-step approach and often wore a watch to gauge his hangtime

  8. I appreciate the additional thoughts, which arrived with an impressive depth of statistical detail. But you badly missed the point.

    First off, I felt Southern, and Griswold, got their due in this piece. He's a good kicker who had a bad start, and the Jaguars have greatly improved. Too, I made room for the idea that poor mechanics in protection for kickers could be playing a role in these struggles.

    Finally, and most importantly, I in no way said, or even implied, that "kicking success is … due to the color of one’s skin." I'm making the argument that the position is undervalued in the black college game, and that it shouldn't be.

  9. I appreciate the additional thoughts, which arrived with an impressive depth of statistical detail. But you badly missed the point.

    First off, I felt Southern, and Griswold, got their due in this piece. He’s a good kicker who had a bad start, and the Jaguars have greatly improved. Too, I made room for the idea that poor mechanics in protection for kickers could be playing a role in these struggles.

    Finally, and most importantly, I in no way said, or even implied, that “kicking success is … due to the color of one’s skin.” I’m making the argument that the position is undervalued in the black college game, and that it shouldn’t be.

  10. Fair enough, Nick. I think I tried too hard at countering your title, "Wanted, and very badly: Kickers for black college football" and pushed my attempt wide left. When I wrote "…kicking success is certainly not due to the color of one’s skin," I didn't mean to imply you felt blacks couldn't kick. I wrote that to preface the reference to Reggie Roby.

    In hindsight, it would have made better sense to just say a lot of high school kickers are former soccer players. Hence there aren't many black kickers coming out of high school. HBCU's are not necessarily undervaluing the kickers – it's just harder for HBCUs to attract the best kickers. However, HBCUs can offer good kickers a golden opportunity to play right away.

    Many colleges (not just the black institutions) are guilty of undervaluing kickers to some extent whether it's not offering freshman kickers athletic scholarships or not having any coach with kicking experience. Credit Southern for finding Griswold and offering him a full ride. Then they further showed their commitment to Griswold by going out and getting a kicking instructor in the form of former SU kicker, Breck Ackley.

    I do appreciate your informative piece on what has been a sore spot for black colleges. I just wanted to point out that,
    1) it's a much tougher sell fpr an HBCU to find the right kicker, and
    2) the HBCU kickers are not alone in their struggles with kickers. There are a lot
    of underperforming kickers in D1-A football. But they have many more back-
    ups and resources.

    I apologize for not clarifying these 2 points earlier.

  11. Fair enough, Nick. I think I tried too hard at countering your title, “Wanted, and very badly: Kickers for black college football” and pushed my attempt wide left. When I wrote “…kicking success is certainly not due to the color of one’s skin,” I didn’t mean to imply you felt blacks couldn’t kick. I wrote that to preface the reference to Reggie Roby.

    In hindsight, it would have made better sense to just say a lot of high school kickers are former soccer players. Hence there aren’t many black kickers coming out of high school. HBCU’s are not necessarily undervaluing the kickers – it’s just harder for HBCUs to attract the best kickers. However, HBCUs can offer good kickers a golden opportunity to play right away.

    Many colleges (not just the black institutions) are guilty of undervaluing kickers to some extent whether it’s not offering freshman kickers athletic scholarships or not having any coach with kicking experience. Credit Southern for finding Griswold and offering him a full ride. Then they further showed their commitment to Griswold by going out and getting a kicking instructor in the form of former SU kicker, Breck Ackley.

    I do appreciate your informative piece on what has been a sore spot for black colleges. I just wanted to point out that,
    1) it’s a much tougher sell fpr an HBCU to find the right kicker, and
    2) the HBCU kickers are not alone in their struggles with kickers. There are a lot
    of underperforming kickers in D1-A football. But they have many more back-
    ups and resources.

    I apologize for not clarifying these 2 points earlier.

  12. Five-Step Drop: Bob Stoops Not Loving His Kicking Options

    Placekickers are like lawyers: Nobody respects them until they need one. Bob Stoops is learning how valuable Garrett Hartley, his former All-Everything kicker, really was. The Sooners now have more kickers on scholarship than they do quarterbacks, and they're still having issues in the kicking game."It is frustrating. We've evaluated and we've offered and we continue to. It's really frustrating with what our commitment has been and then you look around the country and how many guys that aren't on scholarship do so well," Stoops said.
    http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2010/10/27/five-

  13. Unbelievable. Did I not just make this case about D1-A kickers to defend the black colleges? The only thing missing are all the stats I mentioned in my argument. Too funny. This article appeared Oct. 27 at 6:00 am.

    Five-Step Drop: Bob Stoops Not Loving His Kicking Options

    Placekickers are like lawyers: Nobody respects them until they need one. Bob Stoops is learning how valuable Garrett Hartley, his former All-Everything kicker, really was. The Sooners now have more kickers on scholarship than they do quarterbacks, and they're still having issues in the kicking game."It is frustrating. We've evaluated and we've offered and we continue to. It's really frustrating with what our commitment has been and then you look around the country and how many guys that aren't on scholarship do so well," Stoops said…

    Heres the link to the whole article: http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2010/10/27/five-

  14. Did you see Griswold's stats as of today? (10-31-2010)

    Griswold is 6th in D1-AA in FGs Made http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/ncaa-m-

    Griswold is 9th in D1-AA in Kicking Points http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/fcs/stats?catego

    In the SWAC Griswold is:
    Scoring (All Positions) – 2nd
    Scoring (Kickers Only) – 1st
    Field Goals – 1st
    Field Goal Pct. – 1st
    PAT Kicking Pct. – 1st (tied) http://www.swac.org/sports/m-footbl/stats/2010-20

  15. Five-Step Drop: Bob Stoops Not Loving His Kicking Options

    Placekickers are like lawyers: Nobody respects them until they need one. Bob Stoops is learning how valuable Garrett Hartley, his former All-Everything kicker, really was. The Sooners now have more kickers on scholarship than they do quarterbacks, and they’re still having issues in the kicking game.”It is frustrating. We’ve evaluated and we’ve offered and we continue to. It’s really frustrating with what our commitment has been and then you look around the country and how many guys that aren’t on scholarship do so well,” Stoops said.

    http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2010/10/27/five-step-drop-bob-stoops-not-loving-his-kicking-options/

  16. Unbelievable. Did I not just make this case about D1-A kickers to defend the black colleges? The only thing missing are all the stats I mentioned in my argument. Too funny. This article appeared Oct. 27 at 6:00 am.

    Five-Step Drop: Bob Stoops Not Loving His Kicking Options

    Placekickers are like lawyers: Nobody respects them until they need one. Bob Stoops is learning how valuable Garrett Hartley, his former All-Everything kicker, really was. The Sooners now have more kickers on scholarship than they do quarterbacks, and they’re still having issues in the kicking game.”It is frustrating. We’ve evaluated and we’ve offered and we continue to. It’s really frustrating with what our commitment has been and then you look around the country and how many guys that aren’t on scholarship do so well,” Stoops said…

    Heres the link to the whole article:
    http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/2010/10/27/five-step-drop-bob-stoops-not-loving-his-kicking-options/

  17. Did you see Griswold’s stats as of today? (10-31-2010)

    Griswold is 6th in D1-AA in FGs Made
    http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/ncaa-m-footbl-fcs-ind-field-goals.html

    Griswold is 9th in D1-AA in Kicking Points
    http://ncaafootball.fanhouse.com/fcs/stats?category=kicking&selectView=Individual+Stats&selectLeague=All&selectSeason=2010

    In the SWAC Griswold is:
    Scoring (All Positions) – 2nd
    Scoring (Kickers Only) – 1st
    Field Goals – 1st
    Field Goal Pct. – 1st
    PAT Kicking Pct. – 1st (tied)
    http://www.swac.org/sports/m-footbl/stats/2010-2011/confldrs.html#conf.wi2

  18. Just an FYI. The kicker from Arkansas-Pine Bluff is very good. I watched their game against Prairie View a few weeks ago on the tube and then watched him in person this weekend against Grambling. He is 9 of 13 on FG attempts this season but his misses were three long field goals attempts against UTEP (48 yards), Alabama State (49) and Southern (58 yards)and one attempt of 42 yards against Alabama A&M. Six of his nine made field goals were 42 yards or longer (42, 42, 44, 45, 46, and 49). His field goal of 46 yards against Grambling would have been good from 60 yards. Also, he is 23 of 24 on extra point attempts.

  19. Just an FYI. The kicker from Arkansas-Pine Bluff is very good. I watched their game against Prairie View a few weeks ago on the tube and then watched him in person this weekend against Grambling. He is 9 of 13 on FG attempts this season but his misses were three long field goals attempts against UTEP (48 yards), Alabama State (49) and Southern (58 yards)and one attempt of 42 yards against Alabama A&M. Six of his nine made field goals were 42 yards or longer (42, 42, 44, 45, 46, and 49). His field goal of 46 yards against Grambling would have been good from 60 yards. Also, he is 23 of 24 on extra point attempts.


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