The last time Kansas State football started the season with a new kicker and punter was 2009, and their initial results didn't exactly calm the nerves of concerned fans. Senior Josh Cherry missed his only attempt from 38 yards out, and two of freshman Ryan Doerr's first three punts went less than 35 yards, including a 14-yard punt that went out-of-bounds at the UMASS 20 yardline.
He had another one that got blocked and returned for a touchdown in a heart-attack inducing 21-17 win. Meanwhile, Josh Cherry would go on to miss four of his next five field goals as K-State started nonconference play 2-2.
Even though this year's nonconference schedule doesn't appear to be very scary, it would be great to not see a recurrence of 2009's early special teams woes with sophomore kicker Jack Cantele and junior punter Mark Krause. Those are the two projected starters for the 'Cats, so this week we'll look at what they need to do in order to not only meet, but surpass expectations.
Let's start with Cantele, since he likely has the best pedigree and the highest hopes to live up to. Most of that, of course, is thanks to his brother, Anthony, who just capped off an impressive career at KSU by making better than 80% of his field goals and never missing an extra points in his senior season.
Those would be lofty goals, indeed, even looking through the purple-colored glasses I put on any time I write a post in this series. All indications are that Cantele is a mature, intelligent young man who did well as a four-year kicker in high school and has only improved, but....he did go to Kapaun (<- obligatory).
In all seriousness, experience has taught us that if Bill Snyder trusts a kicker enough to put him on the field, he probably has the leg to be successful. The 50-yard kick in the spring game proved that, so the question, then, comes down to how he reacts on the big stage, in front of exponentially larger crowds than what he saw in high school,
This is where Cantele's makeup would seem to provide him with a significant advantage, and you'd like to think he's learned quite a bit while watching his brother kick field goals regularly the past two years. We'll see what happens, but Cantele seems to have all the tools he needs to be at his best right away.
If K-State could have a rookie kicker who was automatic on extra points and reliable enough to virtually ensure 3 points from 40 yards and in, it would be a huge asset. Throw in better than 50 percent from longer distances with perhaps even the capabilities to try 50+ in the right situations, and you're talking about a game-changer for a team that could easily play a lot of close, high-scoring contests.
Of course, the conclusion to that story of the 2009 season is that Doerr rebounded to put 13 punts inside the 20 for the season with an average of nearly 42 yards per punt during league games. Cherry turned things around in a big way, making 12 of his next 13, including 3 of 5 from longer than 44 yards.
If little Cantele could just skip the rough patch at the beginning and go straight to the reliable, nearly perfect part, that would be much appreciated.