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August 23, 2013
Freshmen specialists could play big roles
The Arizona State kickers have a lot of responsibility placed on their feet. One new punter has some big shoes to fill and a place kicker is hoping to fit in at a position where ASU has lacked consistency for many years.
As the first kick off on Sept. 5 approaches the battles for kicker and punter have narrowed down. Freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez has taken a strong hold of the starting field goal kicking duties. Freshman punter Matt Haack is still fight for the job with junior college transfer junior punter Dom Vizzare.
Whoever starts at punter will have to follow up last year's stellar performance by Josh Hubner. He was in the running for the Ray Guy award for the best punter in the country and had a 47.1 yard average per punt.
Haack is still splitting first team reps with Vizzare and coaches are looking for one of them to take over the competition.
"There's always pressure when you're competing for a starting job," Haack said. "But in the end it's football and you got to do what you got to do."
At the start of fall camp Haack's punts seemed to be off and were not very consistent. He would tend to either have a straight, solid 40-yard boom or it would hit the side of his foot, veer off to the right and wobble to the ground only 20 or so yards away.
During the rough stretch Haack took a back seat and Vizzare got all the first punt team reps.
Anytime he has a bad punt, Haack said it is usually the same mishap, the drop. Sometimes he will drop it too close to his body and it would not land on the sweet spot of the foot.
About half way through Camp Tontozona Haack had his best day. Since then he has not looked back and his boots have been way more consistent. The 20-yard slices still occur, but less frequently. Haack knows he has improved but is still not satisfied with his consistency.
Haack's fellow freshman, Gonzalez, had similar problems when he first arrived at ASU. Gonalez's talent was obvious when he would take practice kicks.
But early in camp when the field goal team would line up he had a lot of misses that were very close but were ultimately wide right.
Unlike Haack, Gonzalez righted the ship rather quickly.
"In the beginning I was kind of shifting it to the right," Gonzalez said. "But after a while I kind of focused on my steps a little bit more and the follow through going forward and making sure your hips go exactly where you want the ball to go."
After he refocused, Gonzalez started to distance himself from the competition.
During Camp Tontozona Gonzalez felt a little heat from junior Jon Mora. Gonzalez was able to stave it off with some good kicks during that week and in the scrimmage.
The work Gonzalez has been putting in this week pretty much assured him the job. He has been consistently getting the ball through the uprights every time at distances over 40 yards.
Earlier this week on Monday Aug. 19, Gonzalez caught Graham's eye and sealed his spot as the starting kicker.
"I'm really impressed with Zane (Gonzalez)," Graham said. "He was 100 percent again today and those were all from 30, 45, 47 yards."
The improved consistency by both kickers can be attributed to the subtle changes to the nuances of their kicking movements.
For Haack, he has made a couple tweaks to his approach which he is still working through.
"I'm changing my footwork a little bit," Haack said. "I'm trying to take smaller steps, control myself a little bit more. My drop table, I need to keep a little bit more smooth than I have been and my leg swing -- work on keeping that straight."
Similarly Gonzalez's small changes will go a long way.
"I messed with my steps a little bit," Gonzalez said. "Just a couple readjustments and minor things, but in the kicking world it's a big thing. So it ended up changing a lot and helping things out."
Both the kickers and punters do not have a lot of practice kicks left before the first game and both want to accomplish certain goals for the upcoming season.
If Haack wins the job he does have some statistical goals in mind.
"I'd like to have at least a 40-yard average with like a four or five (second) hang, get the ball off in two (seconds), stuff like that," Haack said. "I definitely want to be a high percentage inside the 20 (yard line)."
Gonzalez wants to accomplish what every kicker sets out to do.
"I don't want to miss any kicks this year," he said. "I'm trying to go 100 percent if I can but that should be every kicker's goal That's my goal, my mentality going about things."
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