September 29, 2009

Blair battling to keep the kicking job

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has been searching for consistent special teams play since arriving in Atlanta last year. The Jackets return game has improved exponentially in 2009 and the punts of Chandler Anderson have been steady, but one area of concern remains for Johnson. Kicker Scott Blair struggled during the 2008 season and after a good start to the 2009 campaign, he had one of worst career performances last week against North Carolina.

Blair missed a pair of easy field goals and had two kickoffs sail out of bounds resulting in great field position for the Tar Heels. Special teams coach Jeff Monken says the competition is on going at the kicking position, but the coaching staff is not sure if there will be a change at kicker this week yet.

"I don't know if I would say it is wide open. Scott had some bad kicks. He has kicked off well for us this season and he had just one go out of bounds prior to last Saturday. We got to try and get him to kick it in bounds so we can cover it."

Several kicking candidates including walk-on Chris Tanner will push Blair this week in practice. Tanner handled the final extra point in the win Saturday over North Carolina, but coach Monken says the Jackets are not writing off Blair yet.

"He had a tough day with the field goals. I hope he will get better and hit them for us. We need him to kick for us this year. We are not writing him off. We will give opportunities to Tanner and some of the other people to see in practice. Maybe it will be a situation where we have one guy kicking off and one guy kicking field goals and extra points. We may have one field goal kicker and one extra point kicker. I do not know. We will try to put the best guy out there to give us a chance to win."

"I think every position is wide open every week. You do not want the message to be if you screw up it is okay and you can still be the starter. If someone kicks it better than him this week than he will be the kicker just like last week. If someone had kicked it better than Scott had, they would have been the kicker. We felt going into last week, he was going to give us the best chance."

Monken says being on the road will not affect the decision on who kicks this week.

"It does not make a difference being on the road. The cross bar is still 10 feet off the ground and the field is still 100 yards long. We got to find the guy who is going to make the kicks and that is the bottom line," Monken said. "Those positions are so in the spotlight from the snapper to the holder to the kicker or punter. Even the kick returners are in the spotlight. When you have a kicking play, people see the snap, the punt, and the returner. Nobody watches the other 19 guys who are out there to see who made their block or who missed their block and who beat a block to get there."

"If it is a bad snap the T.V. cameras are going to be on you. If you shank the punt or drop the punt or miss the field goal you are going to be in the spotlight," he said. "It is a tough position, but it is no different than any other. If we had a slot back that was really struggling blocking, we are certainly going to give the other guys a look to see if they can move ahead of them. If that guy is still the best guy come Saturday, then we have to play him if he gives us the best chance to win. I hope there is competition and I hope there always is because the guys who have always been behind Blair have been pushing him trying to be the starter.

Monken expects Blair to bounce back this week and hopes he will retain the starting job.

"I say with hesitation, he is just fired and we are going to find somebody else," Monken said. "Scott may be the kicker or he may not. We will see. He is a good kid and he wants to win and wants to help us and no one feels worse about it than he does."


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