With the top rushing offense in the nation, a more- concerted effort on improving passing numbers in the upcoming season and figuring out how to replace four starters from last year’s offensive line, one would think the kicking game would be the least of head coach Willie Fritz’s worries.
However, the coach, entering his second year at GSU, said improvements still need to be made in his special-teams corps. Fritz said he’s looking for more consistency this year with his kicking unit.
“We just have to kick the ball better,” Fritz said after a recent practice. “We started the season kicking well, and then we kind of tailed off towards the end of the year.”
Penalties also were an issue the coach wanted to nip in the bud during spring practices.
“We had 17 penalties in the kicking game last year, and that’s 17 too many,” Fritz said. “So we’re working on technique and fundamentals and playing cleaner.”
Last season, the Eagles missed eight extra points and four field goals and attempted just 14 field goals.
Kicker Alex Hanks said he’s been working on consistency in the off-season.
“Last year, I had a decent season. We’re pretty tough graders in the special-teams unit, so I would give us about a C-plus,” he said. “Offensively, we’re going to score a lot of points, which is great, so we want to have a big role in the offense.”
Last season, Hanks went 1 for 3 on kicks of 40 yards or more and 4 for 4 in kicks from 30-39 yards.
Senior punter Ryan Nowicki said his confidence level is at an all-time high. The Peachtree City native said he has worked on consistency as well.
“In the past, I’ve had to block out my nerves and I’d mess up on something else, but now this year it’s going to be really comfortable for me going out there,” Nowicki said. “Me and coach Fritz have talked about improving my kicking consistency. One day I’d have a 60-yard bomb, and then other days I would have a 30-yard shank.”
Nowicki, whose best punt last season was 60 yards, averaged 39.3 yards per punt. The Eagles offense had just 39 punts in 2014, the third-lowest in the nation.
“Our punt coverage and kickoff coverage did an outstanding job last season. We led the conference in those areas. But I’d like to see about 5 more yards (on average) in our punting,” Fritz said.