College Football Discussion: Which School Is Placekicker U?

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John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the placekicker position in my series on which school should be known as Placekicker U.

Football fans often remember a placekicker’s missed kicks as much as those he makes. So much so that the phrase “Wide Right” can rekindle memories both good and bad. In the past 50 seasons, some schools had more All-American kickers than others and a school would need to have at least five kickers named All-American to just earn honorable mention to be considered in the running for Placekicker U.

The first school to make honorable mention might surprise some people and that’s the University of Georgia. The five Bulldog kickers to make All-American were: Allan Leavitt ’76, Rex Robinson ’79 & ’80, Kevin Butler ’83 & ‘84, Blair Walsh in ’09 and ’11 and Marshall Morgan in 2014.

The Miami Hurricanes are another school that had five kickers make All-American in the past 50 seasons. Those five players were: Danny Miller ’81, Carol Huerta ’91, Todd Sievers ’01, Nathan Parseghian ’08 and Michael Badgley in 2016.

At number four in our countdown to Placekicker U is Clemson University. In the past 50 seasons, Clemson had six All-American placekickers in the past 50 seasons beginning with Obed Ariri ’80, then Donald Igwebuike ’84, David Treadwell ’87, Chris Gardocki ’89 & ‘90, Nelson Welch ’92 and Greg Huegel in 2015.

Now we’re down to the top three schools to be considered for Placekicker U. If any head coach knows the value of having a kicker who comes through in pressure situations, it would be Bobby Bowden while he was at Florida State with multiple wide right misses against rival Miami. Not long after those misses, Bowden would find a kicker that would help lead his Florida State Seminoles to their first national title.

The Seminole kickers that were named All-American were: Sebastian Janikowski, the Lou Groza Award Winner in both 1998 and 1999, Gary Cismesia ’07, Graham Gano the Lou Groza Award Winner in 2008, Dustin Hopkins ’12, and Robert Aguayo, a three-time All-American in ’13, ’14 and ’15. Aguayo also won the Groza Award in 2013. Florida State rates ahead of Clemson by having three Lou Groza Award winners to Clemson’s none.

At number two on our list for Placekicker U is the University of Texas. The Longhorns have produced seven All-America placekickers in the past 50 seasons and those All-Americans were: Happy Feller ’70, Russell Erxleben ’77 & ’78, Jeff Ward ’86, Phil Dawson ’96, Kris Stockton ’00, Hunter Lawrence ’09, and Anthony Fera in 2013.

That leads us to the school that is rightfully Placekicker U. The school with the most All-American placekickers in the last 50 years is UCLA. Since 1973, UCLA had eight kickers named All-American. Those kickers were: Efren Herrera ’73, John Lee ’84 & ’85, Alfredo Velasco ’88, Bjorn Merten ’93, Chris Sailer ’97, Justin Medlock ’06 and Kai Forbath, an All-American in ’08 and ’09 and the Lou Groza Award winner in 2009, and another Lou Groza winner in Ka’imi Fairbairn in 2015.

So, when it comes to kickers, UCLA is Placekicker U, and Texas, a close number two.

Interesting fact:  In the past 50 seasons, the University of Colorado had only one kicker named All-American and that was Mason Crosby in 2005 and 2006.

Clemson Photo credit: mbsurf on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Florida State Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Texas sign Photo credit: wallyg on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

UCLA sign Photo credit: Frank Gruber on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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John Baranowski

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

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