With help from NFL kicker Matt Stover, Maryland’s Brad Craddock finds consistency

October 4, 2013

(Getty Images)

Brad Craddock had developed the nasty habit of collapsing his chest. Maryland’s  sophomore place kicker also never realized the importance of his weak-side arm, which ideally should swing across his body and generate power to create a counter that stabilizes his lower body. So when Craddock lines up for field goals, he now yanks his shoulders back and puffs his chest forward, like a pre-fight boxer posing for the cameras.

He learned all this from Matt Stover, who kicked for the Baltimore Ravens for 13 seasons, and a teaching tool called SparkMotion. The application allows Stover to electronically receive Craddock’s kicking videos, record audio commentary and mark the screen on like a broadcast booth telestrator before he sends the film back to his pupil. Miles down Interstate 95, Craddock can learn from the best.

Still, Stover wants to make one thing clear: He’s not some kicker whisperer who transformed Craddock from a fundamentally unsound Australian import unfamiliar with American football into a confident sophomore who’s missed just two kicks in four games this season – one extra point and one 50-yard field goal. All he did was introduce Craddock to SparkMotion and provide his insight.

“Brad put in the work,” Stover said Wednesday by phone. “I really want that to be heard. It’s not all of a sudden I worked miracles with this guy. I can only show him the rhyme and the reason for him to put in the effort and that’s why he’s at where he’s at.”

Since they began working in February, Stover estimated Craddock has kicked maybe 3,000 footballs. The pair met during Maryland’s bye week last Friday, and Stover asked Craddock what he wanted from the session.

“Matt,” Craddock replied. “I want to get better.”

“And I said, ‘Wow,’ ” Stover said. “That is just an awesome statement, and for him to say it means he knows he hasn’t mastered anything.”

Stover, who once made 422 straight extra points and finished as the NFL’s fifth-leading scorer all-time, never felt he truly mastered kicking in two decades, and he sees room for improvement in Craddock. He needs to become more proficient from inside 50 yards, and needs to develop comfort and consistency from distance.

With time, Craddock learned to self-correct. After he missed an extra point in the opener against Florida International — bringing back memories of his inconsistencies from last season, when he was benched for walk-on Brandon Magistro — Stover asked Craddock what happened.

“He knew exactly what he did wrong,” said Stover, who has also worked with Adam Greene, Craddock’s backup. “He had another attempt. I said, ‘What did you do?’ ”

Craddock replied that he hit it down the middle, true and straight. Craddock asked if there were any doubts.

“Absolutely not,” Craddock said.

Stover saw Craddock strike a 50-yarder in the rain on Sept. 21 against West Virginia in Baltimore with Craddock’s parents in the stands, vacationing from Australia. After the game, Coach Randy Edsall speculated Craddock’s kick would have been good from 60, and he’s probably right. One-third of the way through his second season playing American football, Craddock is tops among Football Bowl Subdivision kickers with 10 made field goals. He has become something of a sure bet and, along the way, earned confidence from one of the specialty’s most experienced teachers.

‘Do I feel like he can be an NFL player?” Stover said. “Yes I do.”

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Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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