Craig: Rookie kickers give the boot to convention

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2012 - 1:05 PM

First-year kickers, including the Vikings' Blair Walsh, have shown the mettle to succeed.

hide

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh

Photo: Genevieve Ross, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

When the Vikings decided they needed a young kicker pronto, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer asked the team's personnel department to assemble a spreadsheet on all the rookies who were their team's primary kicker from 2007 to 2011.

The numbers confirmed Priefer's gut instinct. NFL coaches no longer needed to fear the rookie kicker.

"Nowadays, for whatever reason, it's who the rookie is that matters, not the fact he's a rookie," Priefer said. "So many more of them are prepared to handle it. So you look for the right personality, the right work ethic."

The seven kickers on that spreadsheet were a combined 161-for-188 on field-goal attempts their rookie season. That's a significantly high percentage (85.6) for seven young legs that can boom kickoffs farther and higher than aging veterans who typically cling to roster spots long after they've lost their kickoff legs.

On that list was Nick Folk, who made the Pro Bowl with the Cowboys in 2007; Ryan Succop, who made 25 of 29 field-goal attempts (86.2) for the Chiefs as the draft's Mr. Irrelevant of 2009; and Alex Henery, who set the NFL record for rookie field-goal percentage (88.9) as a fourth-round pick of the Eagles last year.

Also on the list were the Saints' Garrett Hartley, who made all 13 attempts in eight games in 2008; Dallas' Dan Bailey, who made 32 of 37 (86.5) last season; Green Bay's Mason Crosby, who made 31 of 39 (79.5) in 2007; and Connor Barth, who made 10 of 12 (83.3) in 10 games for the Chiefs in 2008. The Chiefs also went with a rookie kicker in 2007, but Justin Medlock, a fifth-round pick, kicked in only one game for Kansas City, making one of two attempts. He disappeared from the league from 2008 to '11 before resurfacing in Carolina, where he has made the Panthers' one and only field-goal attempt this year.

As good as the seven kickers on that spreadsheet were as rookies, they all might have to step aside for the Class of 2012. The Vikings' Blair Walsh, Baltimore's Justin Tucker and St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein are making field goals at a 93.5 percent clip (29-for-31) while each ranks in the top eight in the league in scoring. And Zuerlein is the old guy of the bunch at 24 years.

"Hopefully, what we're doing is proving you can trust rookie kickers," Walsh said. "It's good that the general managers in the league are giving some more opportunities to the young guys."

Actually, there would be another rookie out there kicking for one of the league's three unbeaten teams, but Houston's Randy Bullock tore a groin muscle in August. He was the highest of three kickers drafted this year. He went in the fifth round, while Zuerlein (171st overall) and Walsh (175th) went in the sixth round. Tucker went undrafted.

"Bullock will be Houston's kicker for a long time," Priefer said. "And he'll be a darn good one."

As good as Walsh has been while crushing kickoffs and making nine of 10 field-goal attempts -- including a last-second, game-tying 55-yarder in his pro debut against the Jaguars -- he isn't the league's best rookie kicker through four games. That distinction belongs to Zuerlein, the kid from little Missouri Western State. He is 12-for-12 with enough range to earn the nicknames "Greg the Leg" and, even better, "Legatron."

During the Rams' 19-13 victory over Seattle on Sunday, Zuerlein broke the team record for longest field goal. Twice.

He kicked a 58-yarder to break a 14-year-old record. Then he kicked a 60-yarder, becoming the first kicker in NFL history to kick two field goals of 58 yards or more in the same game.

"Zuerlein isn't from a big school like Tucker [Texas] or Blair [Georgia]," Priefer said. "But he very easily could have kicked anywhere. These three guys this year are pretty special."

Tucker's longest field goal is 56 yards. Walsh's was the 55-yarder, but it's probably only a matter of time before both connect from 60. Walsh's 55-yarder and Sunday's 49-yard rocket would have been good from at least 60 yards.

Asked how long he would like to play, the 22-year-old Walsh smiled and delivered an old veteran's response.

"Until the next game," he said. "I've found that if you can become dependable, teams won't care how old you are."

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati 1 Top 6th Inning
Pittsburgh 3
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 27 4th Qtr 13:10
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 17 3rd Qtr
(2) Alabama 20
Rice 10 3rd Qtr
(17) Notre Dame 28
(10) South Dakota St 16 3rd Qtr 10:28
(24) Missouri 21
Fla Atlantic 7 3rd Qtr
(22) Nebraska 31
California 24 3rd Qtr 11:20
Northwestern 7
Marshall 28 3rd Qtr
Miami-Ohio 3
UC Davis 0 3rd Qtr
(11) Stanford 38
Arkansas 21 2nd Qtr 0:23
(6) Auburn 21
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 2nd Half 35:00
Seattle 1
New England 2 1st Half 20:00
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close