April 12, 2010

Battle at placekicker in full swing

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State placekicker Devin Barclay has already established memories most place kickers never acquire during the course of four years in college.

And he didn't even start for the Buckeyes the entire season in 2009.

In relief of since departed kicker Aaron Pettrey - who injured his knee on a kickoff against New Mexico State - Barclay knocked through a game-winning 39-yard field goal against Iowa in overtime to clinch the Big Ten title for Ohio State and a Rose Bowl berth.

Then, in the Rose Bowl game with Pettrey back, Barclay also knocked through three field goals for the Buckeyes, who went on to knock off Oregon 26-17 for their first BCS bowl win since the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.

As it turns out, it wasn't enough to lock down the starting job for Barclay in what will be his senior season next year. Instead, this spring Barclay has been in open competition with Ben Buchanan and early-enrollee freshman Drew Basil.

"I like the competition," Barclay said. "You don't want to be complacent because you want someone to push you, but you also want to know that everything you have done is appreciated and also valued."

Barclay, though considered the front-runner for the job, maintains that he understands this competition is close.

"It is always a close competition," Barclay continued. "Ben is a good kicker and so is Drew. Like Aaron and I were always competing last year and (Ryan Pretorius) and Aaron had their competition, it is never cut and dry. Kicking is very black and white. If one guy is doing it, he is doing it, and if the other is not, he is not. There is nothing more to it than that."

In Saturday's spring kick scrimmage in Ohio Stadium, though, Barclay did anything but solidify himself as the leader of the competition.

Barclay finished the scrimmage at an 8-for-15 clip on his field goal attempts, but was only able to knock through one that was from beyond 40 yards out. Barclay, who attempted seven kicks from beyond 40 yards, was often short on those tries.

After the scrimmage, Barclay was noticeably disappointed in his performance in perhaps the most important day of spring for the specialists.

"Obviously I struggle kicking longer field goals, so it is important for me to continue to work on that and get past the psychological block that I need to swing any differently on longer kicks," Barclay said. "It was just a bad day. I can't really say it was one thing or the other. Sometimes you go out there and you are hitting great balls and other times you have a rough today and (Saturday) was not one of my best days."

Luckily for Barclay, his competition didn't necessarily do anything to make a statement, either.

His main competition at this point seems to be Buchanan, who is also the front-runner to land the Buckeyes' punting job. On Saturday in the kick scrimmage, Buchanan posted very comparable numbers when finishing the scrimmage 8-for-14 in his field goal attempts.

Buchanan, though, seemed to have a stronger leg when knocking through field goals from 37, 39, 41, and 50 yards out. His attempt from 39 was the game-winner for his Gray squad.

"I think any time you are at a school like Ohio State, there's always competition," Buchanan said. "I think I did some good things (Saturday) and I think I have to improve on some things. I think everyone can say that who was out there (for the kick scrimmage)."

Basil is the newest member to the completion and it looks as if he may land the kickoff duties for the Buckeyes in his freshman year in the fall, given he was the only one to do so for Ohio State in the scrimmage.

The freshman showed perhaps the strongest leg of the three Saturday, but as of now doesn't look to be in the heat of the position battle. He only had four attempts in the scrimmage, making one, but his one make was from 47 yards out and probably had enough distance to go five more yards. Before missing a 39-yard attempt in sudden death of the scrimmage, he also missed attempts from 55 and 60 yards out.

However, Basil did turn some heads with his leg strength early in his career with the Buckeyes Saturday.

"I feel like it went pretty well. I think I did my best and did everything I could," Basil said. "I felt like I belonged before. Just the way the guys the taken me in, it has been a great feeling."

While the kick scrimmage in the spring does do quite a bit for the coaching staff in terms of evaluation, the biggest chance for the three to step up will be in fall camp when there is another kick scrimmage heading into the season.

For now, the three Buckeyes will take the competition through the rest of spring ball and into the summer.

"I know there is a big hype going into the (fall) kick scrimmage that the job is won and lost," Barclay said, "but I just have to continue to be consistent every day. The worst thing I can do is allow myself to be consistently inconsistent. We are all just going to keep working."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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