When the 2011 season ended, the Kansas University football program had a couple of young kickers on its roster, both of whom received meaningful playing time and handled different duties throughout the season.
As the Jayhawks crawl toward the start of training camp — players report Aug. 1 and practices begin Aug. 2 — only junior Ron Doherty and a host of unknowns remain.
“Obviously, Ron’s the one-man gang right now,” KU coach Charlie Weis said. “And he’ll be involved in some way. Whether he’s the punter, whether he’s the kickoff guy, whether he’s the kicker, whether he’s all of the above, I don’t know. But at least he’ll have competition in all three of them. It won’t be just a slam dunk that he’s the guy.”
Despite the departure of sophomore Alex Mueller, the starting place kicker for most of 2011, Weis does not seem overly concerned about his team’s outlook in the kicking game. A couple of walk-ons are expected to be in camp this fall, and Weis said all of them would provide competition for Doherty.
“We have more than one punter here now, we have multiple kickers here, we have multiple snappers,” Weis said. “There (are) people here and they’ll contend.”
Earlier this summer, Doherty was one of 25 punters named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound kicker from Klein, Texas, finished the 2011 season third in the Big 12 and 27th in the country with a 42.8-yard punting average. He had 13 punts of 50 yards or more and dropped 15 of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Such numbers earned him honorable mention all-Big 12 nods from both the league’s coaches and the Associated Press.
Late in the season, Doherty took over place kicking duties and connected on three of four field goal attempts. He also handled 22 of KU’s 52 kickoffs in 2011, and Weis said he would not be shy about going with Doherty in all three areas if he proved he was the best man for each job.
“Just as long as his leg can hold up,” Weis said. “That’s my issue. If he is (KU’s main kicker), those other guys will have to handle a lot more kicking in practice and take a lot of the heat off of him.”
Weis said recently he would release the updated roster and depth chart on Aug. 1. From the sound of things, there may be more than one other kicker competing in camp this fall. Austin Barone, a walk-on from Pittsburg, is expected to be in camp, but it seems like a safe bet that there may be at least one or two more vying for the various kicking jobs.
“I think even as a kicker, it’s good to have competition,” Weis said.
Start times released
The Big 12 Conference on Friday released the kickoff times for the first three games of the 2012 season.
The Jayhawks will open the season with a 6 p.m. kickoff against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 1. The following week, KU will welcome Rice to town for a 2:30 p.m. start, and, in Week 3, Kansas and TCU will kick off the Big 12 season with an 11 a.m. game at Memorial Stadium.
Television plans for all three games are still being finalized and will be released shortly. Start times for the rest of KU’s schedule will be set as the season unfolds.
KU coach Charlie Weis and various members of his coaching staff will be the featured guests at a preseason barbecue on Aug. 30, outside of Memorial Stadium.
All proceeds raised by the event, which will begin at 7 p.m. and will take place on the hill near the south end zone, will go toward Weis’ Hannah & Friends foundation, which provides a positive living environment for people with special needs.
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