Today's post is oddly titled, because it's really 1.5 posts. You see, we didn't just lose Amado Villarreal this year. We lost every possible human being associated with kicking field goals: the kicker, the backup kicker, the holder, and the long snapper. It's very similar to what the Mayans predict will happen in 2012. Since I wasn't sure where to place a post about the more marginal positions, I'm lumping them in at the end of my Amado post. Enjoy.
Days left til football: 31. (This number is guaranteed accurate: I'm no longer going off math, but off of HailtoPurple's countdown to kickoff counter and this site, which alternates playing a different song every time I go to the page, luckily, the songs it picks are pretty much the only songs I could ever want to hear: Young Jeezy's Put On, Kanye's Homecoming, Zombie Nation, Mo Greene's Go U NU bowl game remix (why haven't I ever heard this song before? He name drops EVERY SINGLE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN!), and other classics.
Who did it last year?: Surely you remember Amado Villarreal. I've been deading Villarreal since this site's very first sentence, but, truth be told, he was a pretty servicable kicker for his two-year career, even briefly earning nickname "Amado-matic."
Don't get me wrong: Amado Villarreal was far from a great kicker. A great kicker wouldn't miss any PAT's, and would be able to hit 40+ yard field goals, which Amado essentially couldn't. But he was, without a doubt, an alright or better kicker. He gets a pretty bad rap for a few reasons: first off, kickers ALWAYS get bad raps. People remember even the great kickers for the one time they missed one that could've won a game. Just hitting a field goal or extra point doesn't seem that impressive - it's expected, so fans get mad whenever a kicker misses one. Secondly, Amado didn't have any positive defining moments - no game winning field goals or anything, his only game-winning attempt came at the end of the 2007 Michigan State game, and he missed from 36 yards.
And third, Amado's failures couldn't have come at worse times. Villarreal missed three extra points this year, four in his two year career. The first came in the aforementioned MSU game, which ended up being a 48-41 NU victory in overtime, but could have had a final in regulation of Amado hadn't missed an extra point attempt. The second came in last year's Iowa game, when NU scored a touchdown after being down seven and had to watch Amado shank one to leave the score 17-16. (We won eventually, in case you forgot.) The next came in last year's Indiana game. The final score was 21-19, but if Amado had hit all his PAT's, NU would've had the opportunity to tie it up at 21 with a two-point conversion. The most painful, of course, was a shank job in last year's overtime Alamo Bowl lost, which prompted people to get very angry at our kicker, because another point would've won NU the game.
But until the PAT - a really, really, really outdated aspect of football - is eliminated, very good kickers will always miss them once in a while. They'll plant their foot wrong, the snap will be high, or the hold will be an inch too far to the left, and it'll get shanked, and there's nothing you can do about it. Long story short, Amado worked hard for five years, kicked relatively well for two of them, and it's sad that he'll be remembered for his propensity to shank.
(Oh, and, what a bad idea to write 500 boring words about PAT's a few days after I get linked to because I'm "witty." I think I just lost all my readers.)
Song this position reminds me of: Posting "Can I Kick It" would be too cliche, so until somebody writes a song about Amado Villarreal, this section of this post goes barren.
Who's got next?: It's a toss-up between our good friend/punter Stefan Demos and incoming recruit Jeff Budzien, who's like an All-American or something. There's two options here: we could let Budzien and his golden leg get to work right away nailing 50-yarders, or we could let Demos swing double-duty as a punter and a kicker at the risk of his leg falling off but with the reward of keeping Budzien around the program another year. Chances are Demos would be servicable as a placekicker, but to be honest, I the upcoming year is one of the more important ones in franchise history. Kicker isn't a position which requires an adjustment period. If Budzien is a better kicker, just shove him in the starting lineup. We've got more to lose this year than we do in 2013, when he'd be a senior if we redshirt him, so I say set him loose.
It should also be noted that Brandon Williams, a freshman kicker on our roster, played quarterback and wide receiver in high school. For some reason, that reminds me of that one Bugs Bunny cartoon where he was playing baseball, although odds are Williams' method of getting in the end zone probably wasn't unfurling posters of 1930's pin-up girls to defenders about to tackle him.
We also have Steve Flaherty, a walk-on kicker who played wide receiver in high school, and Mark Ison and Tim Weak, who were listed as kickers on last year's roster but have moved to wide receiver and cornerback, respectively. Point is, our kicking corps could totally demolish any other kicking corps in the Big Ten in a footrace. Not sure why our kickers need such great hands, though.
Is that an improvement? With Demos, maybe, with Budzien, probably. Dude's a high school All-American. What more can I say?
THE OTHER POSITIONS
We also lose a long snapper and a holder. These are two positions that you forget about, but, which, well, you need somebody to do. I remember the first game I saw at Ryan Field, against Ohio. I had read something about how Ohio's long snapper was suspended or injured or something silly like that, and as a joke, I said to a friend that this would totally change the course of the game.
Three hours later, NU had blocked two field goals and Ohio had missed it's only other opportunity, because the backup long snapper kept bouncing it back to the holder, and Ohio couldn't get off a good punt because everything back to the punter was a two-hopper. It totally ruined what could have been a winnable game for them.
Kyle Daley had been holding for two years and Phil Brunner had been long snapping for three. And they were pretty consistent, I guess, I don't remember them ever messing up. Replacing Brunner will be a guy named John Henry Pace, who transferred from The U (slang name used here to avoid confusion with Miami (OH), who we're more familiar with, for some reason), and replacing Daley, we don't know yet, although several wide recievers and safeties have "might be a holder this season" on their player profiles.
If you read these last few paragraphs, you're a trooper. Sorry this post was so long.