The kicking position, thought to be a position of strength for Ohio State heading into 2007, might not be that way at all if Wednesday’s kick scrimmage in Ohio Stadium is any indication.
Both junior Ryan Pretorius and sophomore Aaron Pettrey hit the ball hard but not all that well, combining to make just 12 of 22 kicks on a humid day in the Horseshoe. Afterward, head coach Jim Tressel said that Pretorius, based on the strength of a solid jersey scrimmage Aug. 18 and Pettrey’s continued struggles, would probably be OSU’s field-goal kicker if the season started today. Pettrey would still be in charge of kickoffs, however.
“They’re both pretty good,” Tressel said. “It’s a battle, and that’s good because that will make them both better.”
It appears that the tables are turned from a season ago. Then, it was Pretorius who came into the fall in line to replace Josh Huston as the Buckeye kicker. Instead, Pettrey had an excellent kick scrimmage and went on to make 8 of 11 field goals, while Pretorius made just 1 of 2. Now, it is Pretorius who has the lead, although Tressel would like to see more consistency out of both.
“I like having two pretty solid kickers,” he said. “I’d rather have, now, at least one very consistent one and I don’t know that we’re there yet.”
Still, it was Pettrey’s Gray team, featuring both him and starting punter A.J. Trapasso, that won the event by a 21-15 score.
On the day, Pettrey made 7 of 13 field goals. After a solid start, making a 40-yarder to give his team a 3-0 lead, Pettrey struggled during the first kicking rotation, missing from 33, 41, and 43 yards before making a 47-yarder. He then made from 26 and missed a 46-yarder before making from 25, 39, and 41 during the next rotation while missing left from 32 and 42. Pettrey concluded the day by drilling a 50-yarder.
“It could have gone a lot better,” said the Raceland, Ky., native. “I started off the day well but eventually I started pulling a little bit left and missed a few that I should have made. I ended on a good note making the last one. I’d like to get better but I’ll finish off the week and be all right.”
Pretorius got off to a better start before some problems at the end that were not of his own making. He drilled all four kicks – from 25, 41, 45 and 47 – during the first rotation, then started the next by pounding home a 25-yarder from the right hash. However, he pushed one right from 32 yards after that, then had kicks of 39, 41 and 42 yards blocked by heavy pressure from an overloaded right side. Kurt Coleman, Larry Grant and Dexter Larimore got their hands on the boots.
“I think I kicked the ball like a No. 1 kicker,” Pretorius said. “I hit the ball well.”
“He had a good spring and camp,” Tressel said. “He’s really had excellent bowl practice numbers, excellent spring numbers and an excellent preseason.”
When it came to the blocks, Pretorius said he was told that the protection and not his kicks were to blame, but he still said the buck stops with him.
“It’s frustrating when you get three kicks blocked, but at the end of the day you have to say, ‘Was that my fault?’” he said. “I was told it wasn’t, but as a kicker, I shoulder the blame.”
Tressel said he’ll have to look at the tape before he says he’s concerned with the blocked kicks.
“I have to see who it was,” Tressel said. “If it was a guy that was in there protecting that will never be in there for the rest of his life, we’ll sleep. If it’s someone we’re counting on, we better get it squared away.”
As for kickoffs, the rule moving the kick from the 35 to the 30 had a small effect. Pettrey boomed the opening kick a few yards deep into the end zone, then sent one to the goal line later that Jamario O’Neal returned 52 yards. Another Pettrey kick went to the 2, while Pretorius’ only kickoff went to the 7.
The punting was solid all around, but third-year starter Trapasso was excellent. None of his seven punts went for less than 40 yards and just one was a touchback. His 52-yard average included a 64-yarder on the scrimmage’s final play. With no one back deep for the trailing Scarlet squad and a full rush on with the ball at the 1-yard line, Trapasso quickly drilled a low line drive that cleared the rush and rolled peacefully down the field to secure the win.
His backup, Jon Thoma, averaged 38.3 yards on his kicks and did not have any of the six blocked.
At the kick scrimmage, every play is fourth down, and teams must use fakes or punts to earn enough field position to score either via touchdown or field goal. Also interspersed are rotations of punts from the 1-yard line and rotations of five field goals attempted per kickers.
A number of trick plays were undertaken and led to some of the scoring. The first score of the day on a was preceded by a fake punt. Trapasso, a high school tailback at Pickerington High School, ran left before pitching the ball to true freshman Brandon Saine on a reverse. Saine motored 22 yards to the 23-yard line to set up Pettrey’s made 40-yarder.
The gray side also used two straight fakes to set up a try Pettrey could not convert. First, Trapasso heaved the ball down the field to gunner Brian Hartline, who skied to make the 38-yard catch at the scarlet 43.
“Coach (Luke) Fickell said, ‘Just throw it up. See if it confuses the blocker and let Hartline run underneath it,’” Trapasso said. “Hartline is a heck of a receiver, so it worked out pretty well.”
On the next play, Marcus Freeman took a direct snap and gained 14 yards over the right side, but Pettrey could not make a 46-yarder on the next play.
The scarlet team’s foray into trick plays didn’t go so well. Thoma attempted a fake punt pass which was picked off by Boom Herron and returned nearly 30 yards to set up Pettrey’s made 26-yarder. A later fake that involved Tyler Moeller running the ball lost 5 yards at a critical juncture near the end of the scrimmage.
There did not appear to be any snap trouble after the graduation of long snapper Drew “Chucky” Norman. Tressel said that if the season started today, senior Dimitrios Makridis, the back-up to Norman a year ago, would snap for punts, while redshirt freshman Jacob McQuaide would be the field-goal snapper.
Kickers Devin Barclay, Michael Mattimoe and Andrew Good are listed on the roster but did not participate, while long snappers Patrick Howe and Don Curtis also did not play.
Among those returning kicks were O’Neal, Malcolm Jenkins and Anderson Russell, while Jenkins, Coleman and Hartline brought back punts. Dangerous return man Ray Small was held out because of an ankle injury that will probably cause him to miss the season opener Sept. 1. Coleman fumbled one punt while Jenkins had a 20-yard punt return called back because of penalty. Tressel said that if the season started today, Russell and Maurice Wells would return kickoffs.