Monday, July 2, 2007

2007 Recruiting - Josh Jasper and Andrew Crutchfield

The gentleman on the left is Andrew Crutchfield, kicker, Northwest Carrabus High School in Concord, NC. The gentleman on the right is Josh Jasper, kicker, Ridgeway High School in Memphis, Tennessee. They are both kickers/punters, and both have scholarships to play football at LSU.

This caused quite a bit of consternation among LSU faithful. Scholarships for kickers? Two of them in one year?

In a sport where there are a limited number of scholarships available, is it wise to spend scholarships on "specialists", like punters, kickers, and long snappers?

I think the answer is an emphatic "YES!" but with a few qualifiers. Kickers take the field after every touchdown to kick an extra point and then to kickoff. They put points on the board, and not always with easy extra points. Punters are vitally important to field position, and a good punter will help a team win the field position war. The importance of getting quality players at these positions should not be downplayed.

I think that there have been a few games recently where the importance of kickers/punters has been obvious. In 2005, LSU overcame an upset bid by Oregon State in no small part because the Oregon State kicker missed 3 extra points. In 2006, LSU lost a hard-fought battle against Auburn in which Auburn punter Kody Bliss averaged 48.6 yards per punt and LSU punter Chris Jackson averaged only 42 yards per punt, a difference of almost 5 yards per punt, and a difference of 37 yards total over the course of the game in Auburn's favor. In a game where a lot of different factor probably individually were the differences between a win and a loss, I truly believe that punting was one of them. If the punting in that game was reversed, LSU probably wins that game, and we may have ended up playing for the National Championship.

Keeping in mind the above examples from recent history, I think it is obvious that the kicker and punter positions are at least as important as, say, the backup offensive guard position. Most teams wouldn't dream of using walk-ons for the backup offensive guard spot unless a walk-on ended up much better than expected.

Of course, it is always best to avoid using a scholarship. If you can get the same level of quality
out of a walk-on than you could out of a scholarship player, by all means save the scholarship and use a walk-on. That's the first qualifier on my statement that it is OK to use scholarships on kickers on punters. That is often not the case, however, and it is necessary to use a scholarship.

The second qualifier or caveat is that it is very important that you not get it wrong. You cannot have a kicker on scholarship who is not getting it done. While you can afford to use a scholarship on a kicker or a punter, it is vital that the coaches do their homework and get the right one, and not use a scholarship on one who will never be a contributor. You expect that with position players, but you can't afford to miss on a specialist.

But why two in one year? Well, you must realize that LSU is losing Chris Jackson, who played multiple roles: punter, kickoffs, and long field goals. These two guys are replacing him. Crutchfield is the punter and kickoff man, and Jasper is allegedly a really accurate field goal kicker. Both are allegedly good. Of course, we already have Patrick Fisher, Brady Dalfrey, and Colt David on the roster. Fisher and Dalfrey have been around for a few years and have yet to contribute. Dalfrey also has been suspended from the team for academic reasons, but could return for the fall. One wonders if the second caveat applies to this situation.

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