June 1, 2008

Rebels looking at Wisconsin kicker

One of many areas of concern for Ole Miss first year head coach Houston Nutt is special teams, where the Rebels struggled with covering short kicks, often permitting the opposition to start near midfield during the 2007 season.

The Rebels have Justin Sparks, a junior, who won the kick off duties out of spring practice, and Josh Shene, a freshman All-American, who is entering his junior season and will handle place kicking.

The age of those players may have the Rebels in the market for a kicker, and one prospect the Rebels have shown some interest in is Hartland (Arrowhead HS), Wis. kicker Jeff Budzien, an all-state performer from last season.

"Ole Miss has shown some interest, but that was a few weeks ago and it's kind of died down," Budzien said on Sunday. "The team that is really come on recently is LSU, I just received a handwritten letter from the coach there and I'm getting something in the mail from them just about every day."

Budzien, 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, said that if the Rebels pick up interest in him, he'll return the favor, and noted that both SEC schools impress him.

"I'm interested in anyone who is recruiting me and Ole Miss is a great school with great tradition," he said. "When it comes to LSU, they are the defending national champions and I'm really impressed with their interest."

Only Army has offered Budzien at this point, but he feels several schools may be on the verge of offering.

"What I'm hearing is that most of the schools want to get me to camp, see me kick in person, and then the offers will come," he said.

He plans to camp at Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas State, LSU and Michigan.

A key element for Budzien and his college career will be his ability to get kicks into the end zone, after the kick off spot was moved from the 35-yard line to the 30-yard line last season.

"I had a 79-yard kick off last summer," he said. "I'm working to be able to consistently get the ball to the end zone. It's a challenge, but I think I can do it. It's a tough adjustment."

Budzien recently attended the National Showcase Camp in Illinois where he picked up a Top 3 in the nationwide rankings and plans to attend NIKE camp in Las Vegas.

"I really stood out on kickoffs this past year, 71 of 98 touchbacks, and 3 of those kickoffs went through the uprights. I also hit field goals of 55 and 49 yards," he told Wisconsinpreps.com.

As a junior Budzein was selected as Associated Press 1st Team All-State and WisconsinPreps 2nd team All-State.

Budzien carries a 3.9 GPA and has already made a 26 on his ACT.

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