It was not the kick scrimmage that will decide who starts against Youngstown State, but Thursday afternoon’s spring kick scrimmage has the battle lines drawn for the right to boot the ball at Ohio State.
By all indications, the Buckeyes are looking at Ryan Pretorius as the field goal kicker and Aaron Pettrey to handle kickoffs – but a lot can change in the coming months, and both players know that.
“We want them to have that feel that they’re competing, which they are,” said offensive graduate assistant Chad Rogosheske, who handles the kickers. “They’re both very good. We’ve got to have a situation where we can use both of them if they’re both healthy and both available.”
Last season, Pretorius won the duties as the primary kicker during the team’s fall kick scrimmage after Pettrey nailed down the job the previous year at the corresponding scrimmage. Pretorius was aided by the fact that Pettrey suffered a torn groin muscle that shelved him for much of the 2007 season.
Neither Pettrey nor Pretorius was exactly sure of his final totals, but there were guesses. Pretorius said he missed two field goals and was about 8 for 10, while Pettrey claimed to have gone 8 of 12 overall.
“I felt I had a really good day out there,” Pretorius said. “You always want to be perfect, but I’ve been very happy with my spring and my performance today.”
The competition has apparently brought out the best in both kickers. Rogosheske said each has put together the best camp of his career as the two players have consistently pushed each other to improve.
The long kick came from the foot of Pettrey, who nailed a 56-yarder and said he was connecting from 60 yards out during warm-ups. Of the four Pettrey missed, one was a bad snap and the other was blocked.
“My leg felt real good,” he said.
Pettrey’s Gray team won by a 38-24 score that was aided by a punt returned for a touchdown by Ray Small. The scrimmage featured kickoffs, field goals and punts. Both Pettrey and Pretorius took at least one kickoff, but Pettrey said the battle to handle kickoffs is being waged between himself and punter A.J. Trapasso, who emerged last season as the Buckeyes struggled to get consistency out of their kickoff unit and tried a variety of players.
During the scrimmage, Pettrey had one kick go for a touchback and the other fall short thanks to a stiff breeze.
Last season, Pretorius was the lone player to attempt a field goal and finished the year 18 of 23. One season prior to that, Pettrey finished 8 of 11 for the Buckeyes.
Pretorius said he understands that Pettrey’s abilities make him more suited to handle kickoffs.
“I think that’s the case: Aaron’s hitting really good kickoffs and I’ve been pretty solid with field goals, so we’ll see how it pans out,” he said. “I can do both, but I think Aaron’s got a slightly better kickoff.
Each kicker was somewhat hamstrung by the fact that the team was split into two squads, leaving the players responsible for protection somewhat out of their element.
While this gives OSU a blueprint moving forward as it prepares for the season, a lot can still change between now and the first game of the season. Last season proved that point, as Pettrey headed into the fall as the primary kicker but lost the job and suffered the injury.
“They’re aware of the competition,” Rogosheske said. “We’ll take a look and evaluate the situation at the end of the spring and go from there.”