SU’s Football Kicking Core Enters 2016 Season More Focused and United than Ever

By Chris Mackowiak

Sports Editor

@cmackowiakSGSN

 On the way to the 2015 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Title last season, the Salisbury Football team featured a litany of star players that were game changers. Two of those stars were special teams’ players: punter Tim Steindl and kicker Alex Potocko.

 Through the thick and thin of the long football season, the two Sea Gulls made pivotal plays to push their team on to victory, or in some cases to defeat. While there were hardships along the way, both were eager to learn from their mistakes.

 In 2015, Salisbury began the season at Albright College in Reading, PA. After Albright scored three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a one point lead over the Sea Gulls, it came down to kicker Alex Potocko to hit a game-winning field goal from 18 yards out with about 15 seconds remaining in regulation.

 “I’m not sure, looking back, if I was overly confident, but I think about how I went on the field then versus how I go on to the field now, and I think that kick taught me a lot about the way I need to break things down every practice into their fundamental steps,” the junior kicker said.

 Despite missing that critical kick in the game, Potocko, who also converted a 23-yard field goal against Albright last year, would go through the rest of 2015 missing no field goals including the game-winning kick against Wesley. However, it does show how much thought or focus can change one singular kick whether during punting or place-kicking.

 “The first thing I notice is field position; what side of the field we’re on. How deep am I? How far away can I kick it? If I’m close to the 50, then I’m going to punt it differently than if I’m close to the 10,” SU punter Tim Steindl said.

 “Punting is much more technical. For kicking off, I just try to kick it as far as I can down the field,” the All-NJAC first team punter said.

 Steindl is taking over the kickoff duties this season and started it off well, forcing three touchbacks against Albright on September 2.

 For place-kicking, Potocko says his main focus is to look at each kick the same in almost all situations.

 “Every kick should be the same. Be consistent. Not overthinking it.”

 ‘Not overthinking it’ and being focused can be a tall task when kicking plays move so quickly, with the kicker having only a split second to prepare.

 Punter Steindl notes that the time snapped from long snapper Ryan Malane to his hands is about 0.8 seconds. The overall snap-to-kick time is about 2.2 seconds. From his catch to his kick, the punter has about 1.5 seconds to get off the kick without being blocked.

 The junior says that for the actual punt, anything above 3.5 seconds is an excellent hang time. The overall goal is to get the coverage team down there. Therefore, in just 2.2 seconds, Steindl must think through the whole process, and he still puts up conference-high numbers.

 For kicker Potocko, the times only grow faster in place-kicking. The All-NJAC second team kicker says the group must aim for a 1.25 to 1.3 second snap-to-kick time in order to get the ball off with no touches from the defense.

 “It comes down to less than a tenth of a second each time,” Potocko said, who was 4/4 on extra points versus Albright two weeks ago.

 A difference of less than a tenth of a second can come down to the relationships and trust developed between the whole kicking team. Why is Salisbury University one of the top teams in kicking in the country? It is the behind-the-scenes teamwork of Potocko, Steindl, long snapper (LS) Malane, holder Brandon Lewis, and Kicking Coach Dan Gregory.

 “Tim and I have worked a lot, especially with Coach Gregory, on staying focused with everything; every little drill,” Potocko said. “All the practices before when I look back, we were just kicking. We never had it in our heads ‘this is a game-like situation.’”

 “It’s a unit, so it’s very important that everyone do their job,” Steindl said, averaging 42.6 yards per punt alongside a 71-yarder two weeks ago.

 Both kickers advocate for the strong communication and relationship with their So. LS Malane.

 “We get a lot of time with him and also get to do PAT field goal at the end of every practice, but it’s pretty much knowing that right when Malane’s fingers go back, I should be going. I always tell [holder] Brandon [Lewis] where I want it, and he nearly always gets it there. He’s a great holder. There’s a sense of urgency at each practice since everything matters,” the SU starting kicker said.

 For Steindl’s punts, the communication with Malane must be even stronger due to the variability of the ball in the air. The Dover, Del. native says he likes the ball coming to one spot: his right hip.

 “For punting it’s a little more about placement. I can tell when he’s going to snap the ball and where it’s going to be right as he snaps it,” the SU punter said.

 Despite the pressure in these split-second situations on the field, the kickers both continue to create the theme of a team-first unity that is unique.

 “The goal is just to have fun and to enjoy kicking; to enjoy being part of a team especially like Salisbury,” Steindl said. “I think the biggest thing is for us to understand that we’re playing something a little bit bigger than ourselves. That’s really cool for us because it takes a lot of the pressure off of us.” Steindl says he also dreams of being an All-American by the end of his tenure.

 After a successful night for the entire group in their first game against Albright College, the kicking core has set the tone for another successful season under the lights.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: