Very Large Man Joey Julius’ Kicking Struggles Prompt Franklin To Consider New Starter
Joey Julius, Penn State’s 5-foot-1o, 261-pound boulder of a placekicker, quickly became a fan favorite for his nontraditional stature. But the novelty of having a very large man doubling as a kicker is quickly wearing off, as Julius has missed one field goal and two extra points in the last two weeks.
On the year, Julius, a freshman, is 10-12 on field goals and 20-24 on extra points. They are by no means bad numbers — Sam Ficken’s senior year field goal percentage was less than Julius’ current conversion rate — but his errors have come at costly times. A missed field goal against Maryland, a game that Penn State won by a mere point, nearly lost the Lions the matchup. Several of his kickoffs have sailed out of bounds, giving the heavily relied upon defense a significant field position disadvantage.
When Julius missed two extra points at home against Indiana, James Franklin inserted Tyler Davis. Davis, a walk-on that never played football until college, is also a freshman, though nearly 80 pounds lighter than Julius. And when Julius missed two extra points this weekend at home against Illinois, Franklin again inserted Davis.
In both appearances, Davis proved himself more than capable. He’s 3-3 on the year, and 4-4 on extra points, though he too knocked a kickoff out of bounds this past weekend.
The never particularly revealing Franklin wouldn’t say whether or not Davis’ performance warranted the starting job.
“We’ll look this week and see how it goes at a number of positions, kicker being one of them, and we’ll see how those guys do during the week,” Franklin said on Tuesday. “Obviously, Tyler came in and did a great job on Saturday, and we’re really proud of him. Obviously, Joey was disappointed with how it played out on the field with the kick out of bounds and the two low kicks that were blocked.”
Following the game on Saturday, Franklin suggested that Julius’ two extra point misses (which were blocked, his missed field goal got over the defense but was pushed) were the result of two factors, only one of which was his fault.
In Franklin’s words: “That was a combination of two things: The kicks were low and then we typically go live with PAT field goal in practice and we came out of the pads and we lost Chasz Wright, who has been starting for us at guard at 340 pounds. We pulled him out and put [Brendan] Mahon in that spot and we don’t get any live reps in practice and we got way too much push. We need to get those things cleaned up. We either need to put Mahon on a weight-gaining diet or we need to get big Chasz back.”
Long story short, the low-kicking Julius was further plagued by an injured offensive lineman.
Penn State’s special teams this year has been consistent only in its inconsistency, so much so that it’s starting to resemble the back and forth of its punting game. The Lions’ punters, Chris Gulla and Daniel Pasquariello, both have had their fair share of shanks. It got so bad that Franklin even suggested open tryouts may be the necessary move to find a competent kicker. When the shanking got too severe, Franklin showed no hesitation in pulling the current punter and replacing him with the other. That cycle’s continued several times this year. Rinse, wash, repeat.
If Julius continues to start and struggle, the Lions’ placekicking unit is bound for a similar fate.