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Koo getting his kicks in for Eagles

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POSTED: October 4, 2013 10:20 a.m.

Alex Hanks struggled mightily last year as Georgia Southern’s kicker, but his coach never lost faith in him.
The Eagles lost three games by a field goal or less last year, including the Football Championship Subdivision semifinal against North Dakota State, as Hanks made only 7 of 17 field goal attempts as a true freshman. As a team, the Eagles went 8 of 22.
However, head coach Jeff Monken, who last year said he believed Hanks could be an all-conference kicker, reiterated that thought in preseason camp.
When the season started Hanks was one of three kickers the Eagles had in the mix. The others were redshirt freshman Connor Tierney and highly touted recruit Younghoe Koo of Ridgewood, N.J.
The kicking job, it was assumed, was Koo’s to lose. However, five days into preseason he suffered a flexor strain and did not kick for a week and a half.
That enabled Tierney and Hanks to get more time, and in the opener against Savannah State the two shared the kicking duties.
Tierney, however, missed two field goals against the Tigers, one of which was blocked. Koo did not kick as Tierney and Hanks combined to make all 11 extra-point attempts.
The following week Hanks kicked two field goals, and Koo added one against St. Francis. The Eagles did not attempt any field goals against Wofford.
When Georgia Southern was faced with its first field-goal attempt against Chattanooga it was Koo, who had already kicked two extra points, who got the call.
So, why was Koo and not Hanks, who is handling kickoff duties and has eight touchbacks, on the field for the game-winning kick in last Saturday’s gritty 23-21 win over Chattanooga?
When the Eagles decided to go for the field goal on fourth-and-2 at the Chattanooga 15 in the second quarter, Monken was going to use Hanks, but said he couldn’t locate him. Rather than burn a time out, he sent Koo onto the field.
The result was a 32-yard kick that easily split the uprights.
Thus, when it came time to kick two fourth-quarter field goals, including the 26-yard game winner with 1:56 to play, Koo was the man.
And he likely will be the man at 3 p.m. Saturday, when the Eagles (3-1, 1-1) take on Samford (3-2, 1-0) in Birmingham, Ala.
Being “the man” and the pressure that comes with it is something Monken has tried to avoid with Koo after witnessing Hanks’ meltdown last year.
“The thing I like about this group (of kickers) is, we’re not backed into a corner with one guy,” Monken said. “The pressure is off because one guy does not have to be the guy. I don’t want Koo to feel all the pressure is on him.”
However, Koo indicated after the Chattanooga game that pressure is something he can deal with.
“I knew it was coming,” Koo said of the situation he found himself in after the Eagles drove 71 yards to the Mocs 4, where a fumble on an errant pitch moved the ball back to the nine.
“When I went in, I tried not to think about it. We work on this (game-winning situation) in practice. I’m just glad to do it. I really didn’t feel any pressure. Every kick, I try to kick it the same way. The feeling off my foot, I know if it’s good, and this one felt good the way it came off my foot.”
Unlike many kickers, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Koo, a native of Seoul, Korea, was an excellent position player.
Koo, who scored 161 points in his high-school career, was an All-Northern New Jersey first-team pick as both a kicker and cornerback. As a cornerback, he had six interceptions, nine pass deflections and 59 tackles his senior season. He was the first four-year letter winner in school history at Ridgewood.
In track, Koo threw the javelin and also was a high jumper, triple jumper and long jumper.
“This was a positive for him,” Monken said of Koo’s performance against the Mocs, which earned him SoCon Freshman of the Week Honors. “He’s been used to playing the game. He understood the situation. He’s an athlete. … a football player.”

 

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