We’ve reached the midway point in the season, and Penn State football has an elephant in the room to address — its kicking situation.
Incumbent Tyler Davis is 6-13 on the season (46.2 percent) after only missing two kicks in 2016; there are issues all across the board between blocking, snap execution, and the kick itself — but some changes must be in order ahead of the three biggest games of Penn State’s season. When asked about his kicking unit Wednesday after practice, James Franklin deflected, saying “We’ve established this before.”
I’ll be the first to acknowledge how difficult the kicking game actually is. It becomes the scapegoat for losses, and the first element of the game fans criticize when struggles arrive. I certainly cannot drill a 45-yard field goal against an 11-man rush in a pressure situation. However, if Penn State’s struggles continue in this area, the repercussions would magnify tenfold against teams like Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State.
Of all the issues, one consistent remained the same: Six of Davis’ misses have come from the left hash mark.
It seems in the above clip that long snapper Kyle Vasey fires his snap too far inside to the right and too low for holder Billy Fessler to properly handle — thus, resulting in the wide miss to the left.
Protection has been a major issue for Franklin and the kick unit. Errors in blocking responsibility can be seen above vs. Indiana as well as below vs. Iowa. Pay close attention to where the pressure is coming from.
As you can see on both occasions, the defender who blocks the kick came from the right side. If a change were to be made, adjusting gap responsibility along the right side for No. 46 Colin Castagna — or replacing him outright with another blocker — might be a good move to make.
It’s difficult to clearly see where the laces are on each hold, but overall, it seems the best remedy may be to host a bye week competition — and not just for Davis’ position.
Franklin should have Davis compete with freshman Alex Barbir, while Fessler, Vasey, and members of the protection unit compete as well. It’s worth a shot, because if the Nittany Lions aren’t fielding the best possible unit each kick, it may come back to haunt them during the upcoming tough stretch of games.