Pittsburgh, PA — Pitt didn’t beat Clemson by chance on Saturday. I imagine it’s hard to admit that for a lot of die-hard fans, but deep down you all know the nature of college football – expect the unexpected and try to have a well-balanced attack.
For the record, a well-balanced attack always includes clutch kicking, if not – it’s just an offense that runs and passes. My point is that when it comes to recruiting, finding a great kicker is as important as any other position, but some teams don’t seem to feel the same way.
The problem is that most American football players don’t aspire to be kickers and the recruiters don’t have the time to find that needle in a haystack recruit when there is a group of top-ranked hog mollies and skill position players eagerly waiting to be offered scholarships.
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that Rivals.com only has 5 kickers listed for the entire class of 2017. Three of them are 3-Star and the other two are 2-Stars. Think about that for a moment. There are over a 100 college football teams and there are only 5 kickers worth ranking.
When there is only 5 kickers in the country you’re going to have get creative.
What a football coach really needs is a kicker who’s already a futball player. Ideally, a futball player that speaks English and calls everyone mate. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this recruiting technique because Pitt already scooped up a kicker from Melbourne, Australia.
Interestingly, Australia is ahead of the curve on implementing strategies to export kickers to the States. The Aussies started a program years ago that trained athletes on how to kick American footballs. Pitt’s incoming punter is named Kirk Christodoulou and he explained in an article on Cardiachill.com
“All of this came from joining a program called Prokick Australia run by Nathan Chapman and John Smith. It’s a program in Australia that helps develop Australian athletes to be able to punt and kick footballs,”
Hometown: North Balwyn, Australia
School: Balwyn High School
Other teams should begin to copy the Pitt model instead of simply walking over to the closest soccer field and asking if anyone wants to switch sports. In all fairness, it’s not really the Pitt model – it’s programs like Prokick Australia run by Nathan Chapman and John Smith that are going to cause a title wave of superior kicking in college football. Hopefully, your home team dips into this talent pool down under, because if they don’t – they run the risk of losing crucial games due to a lack of talent on special teams.
Think about how special this season could of been for Clemson if they had a strong kicking game. Clemson wins games exclusively with touchdowns – kind of like a basketball team that wins with dunks, but can’t shoot free throws. Clemson might have a deep bench, but Pitt has top shelf kicking.
As we learned on Saturday – it’s the kicking game that slices undefeated teams in the jugular. Sure, everyone has to be on top of their game to beat a top ranked team, but it was the kicker that truly won the game for both Pitt and Iowa.
Even Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had Adam Vinatieri kick a field goal in a blizzard to put them into the next round of the playoffs. That singular kick led them to their first Super Bowl victory and the Patriots haven’t looked back since. They will undoubtedly go down as one of the best dynasties of all-time and it all began with a field goal in a blizzard.
The moral of the story is: never underestimate the importance of a strong kicking game. If you can’t find a kicker in this country, don’t hesitate to get your passport out. – it seems to be working for Pitt.
Much like with basketball – American football is slowly becoming more of an international game. Similar to the eastern Europeans in the NBA who hit 3-pointers in their sleep – football teams everywhere should start targeting skill players on foreign soil. In doing so, special teams units across the NCAA will be pinning punts within the 5 yard line and hitting 50 yard field goals on a regular basis.
This is the dawn of a new day in football and it seems as though the Pitt Panthers were awake bright and early to take full advantage of it.