Against my better judgement and against everything that I've ever stood for, I'm going to do something that I vowed I would never do: I'm going to write about kickers.
It hurts my fingertips typing this out, it really does. Kickers are people too, that's true. But they're not football players, despite how many football games come down to kickers doing kicking things. They are a sideshow. They're an important sideshow and a sideshow that we love, but they're a sideshow. There just isn't any other way around that. Nobody (who isn't a parent of a kicker) has ever gone to a game to watch the kickers. More people go to football games to watch the band at halftime than there are people who go to watch the kickers kick.
Despite all of that, I'm writing about BYU's kicking game today. The message will be short and sweet, but it will be critical. You ready for it?
Stop. Worrying. About. The. Kickers.
Look, I know what we all read and heard throughout spring ball - the kickers weren't good and it was a full-fledged shit show every time they stepped on the field. Anyone who attended practice during the spring can attest to the validity of those statements... the kicking was bad.
It was also spring ball and the reps meant nothing.
Jake Oldroyd, if you recall, was beat out by everyone in 2016. He was the third-string kicker who didn't get a pair of team-issued cleats. The only reason he was even on the trip to the season opener in Arizona is because Ed Lamb couldn't make up his mind about who the kicker should be. But, when crunch time game, Oldroyd drilled the game winner. His career had its ups and downs, but for the vast majority of his time at BYU, Oldroyd was a weapon for the Cougars.
He went from green cleats to the starting kicker in a matter of seconds, and once he got the job, he did a pretty darn good job of holding it down.
Such is the kicking game. All of BYU's kickers have the physical attributes to be successful at the college level. (Spoiler alert: There aren't many physical attributes that are needed. Just kick the ball really damn far and you're in the conversation, and all of BYU's kickers can do that.)
What BYU couldn't simulate in spring ball is game situations, and that's really what makes kickers special. Sure, NFL kickers might be freaky and put the ball through the uprights on 65-yarders, but college kickers just need to be reasonably accurate around 45 yards and they'll be just fine. If they can convert half-ish from 50+ then they'll be in the conversation as a great BYU kicker. If they don't miss PATs, then they get to avoid a public reckoning (not a murder, necessarily, but not not a murder either) and continue their daily lives as normal.
All of the kickers on BYU's roster have the physical tools to make 45-yarders and not miss PATs.
So, we'll see what happens when the lights come on. That's all there is to it. In practices, BYU can't simulate the mental aspect of kicking the football in front of 65,000 fans. Some dudes crack under that kind of pressure and the moment gets to them. Other dudes thrive on the moment and are able to step up and do things in games that they can't do in practice. Pressure is funny that way.
My advice to BYU fans? Don't worry about the kicking. There are a billion other things to worry about that aren't kicking - you know, football things. Besides, even if BYU has a surefire kicker that you feel great about, you're still going to eat your fingernails off when BYU needs a last-second field goal to beat Arkansas in Week 3. So, even if the kicking is good, it's still stupid stressful.
Save your stress for the real football. Let the kickers stress about themselves.