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It's Difficult for Kickers to Get a Look

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2004;

Broadneck kicker and punter Chris Desautels occasionally chats with Brooks Barnard, whose name he is partially booting out of the school record book. Like Barnard a few years ago, Desautels is finding it extremely difficult to get interest from college recruiters.

"I had never contacted more schools for anybody that I've had in 15 years than I did for Brooks Barnard," Broadneck Coach Jeff Herrick said. "And no one bit on him either."

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Barnard walked on at Oklahoma, then transferred to Maryland without a scholarship, went on to become the school's most successful punter and last season played in one game for the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Desautels has broken Barnard's Anne Arundel County record for career field goals and has come within one yard of his school record for longest field goal in a game, 47 yards. Desautels said he has made a 55-yarder in practice and Herrick feels confident that from 47 yards in, Desautels is good.

Still, after receiving plenty of mail from colleges during his junior year, Desautels said a phone call three weeks ago from Marshall assistant Shaine Miles was notable. Colgate inquired earlier this week.

Meantime, across the Potomac River, two seniors and one junior are receiving considerable interest from colleges. Westfield Coach Tom Verbanic said he believes that senior punter Brent Bowden -- the younger brother of Florida State punter Chris Hall -- will get a scholarship. West Springfield Coach Bill Renner said the same of his kicker, junior Josh Czajkowski, who already is taking unofficial visits to Maryland and Virginia, among others.

Alex Czajkowski, who is the West Springfield boys' soccer coach, believes his son will accept a scholarship before next season begins. Yorktown Coach Bruce Hanson said that senior kicker George Pierson is being heavily recruited but likely will end up at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy for a year of prep school.

Is there a significant difference between the Virginia players and Desautels? Perhaps.

But more likely, according to Renner -- who runs 4th Down Sports, which specializes in training kickers, punters and long snappers -- is that a capable kicker just slips through the cracks.

"That happens all the time," Renner said. "There are so many people competing for one spot or two spots on the team that that happens yearly to a lot of kids."

Part of the problem, according to Renner, is that unlike other positions, where the physical requirements change with the jump from high school to college, kickers and punters change little from one level to the next. That means that college recruiters are inundated with successful high school kickers and punters who believe they can compete in college.

It is difficult for most coaches to discern the difference between players' ability levels. According to Paul Woodside, a former West Virginia University all-American kicker who works with Renner at West Springfield and 4th Down and also operates his own kicking business, only one Division I-A program has an assistant coach dedicated solely to kicking. The glut of players means that colleges can coerce players to walk on and then earn a scholarship by earning playing time. At the most, colleges will reserve one scholarship per year for a punter and one for a kicker.

"Colleges don't want to take a freshman, 18-year-old kicker, have him come up and just blow it and never be good," Desautels said.

It would never happen at any other position on the field. One can't picture Maryland or Virginia Tech asking Northwest superstar quarterback Ike Whitaker or Tennessee or Virginia asking Eleanor Roosevelt standout Derrick Williams to walk on and earn a scholarship if they earn starting jobs.


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