Tigers looking for somebody to kick-start kickoffs

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2005

He sounded like he was kidding.

But, with Les Miles, you never know.

“If there’s a great kicker within the sound of my voice … that goes to school at LSU and has the opportunity to kick a ball from a college tee into the end zone, or with great hang time, I’d love to have him come to the football office and take a shot at it,” Miles said Monday.

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Maybe Miles’ theory — tongue-in-cheek or not — is that, on a campus with 28,000 students, there must be at least one person who can kick a regulation football into a college end zone.

So far he hasn’t found one among the 117 able Tigers on the football team.

“The guy who I’d be talking to,” Miles said, “is the guy who, for fun, would go off for the weekend with his date and say, ‘Hey, listen, could you shag balls for me while I kick?’ The date would understand that and they would have enjoyable moments.

“If that guy showed up, we’d welcome him with open arms. That guy, he’s sitting there right now saying, ‘I know. I can kick off.’ ”

Miles isn’t holding his breath.

“I don’t know how many of those guys there are within the sound of my voice,” he said.

“We’re not necessarily to the point we feel like it’s time for an all-points bulletin to be put out for a kicker.”

But Tiger wannabes should keep checking the want ads anyway.

Three weeks into the season, LSU has three convincing victories and a No. 2 national ranking. But 22 kickoffs into the season, the Tigers are still waiting on one to reach the end zone.

The weak kickoffs are about the only flaw thus far in the season, and surely a lot of coaches would love for that to be their biggest concern.

If LSU had a porous offensive line or a lead-footed secondary, you can bet Miles wouldn’t be joking about scouring the intramural fields for the answer.

Nit-picking or not, it’s definitely an area he wants to see improvement.

“We’re still looking at our kickoff game,” Miles said. ”

Since missing LSU’s first extra point of the season, junior Drew Alleman has been rock solid in his first year as a regular placekicker.

He hasn’t missed another extra point and is 6 of 7 on field goals, including 3-for-3 last week against Mississippi State to earn star of the week honors from the Lou Groza national kicking award. His only miss was a hair wide from 50 yards out against Northwestern State.

He and freshman DJ Howard have shared kickoff duties — Alleman had all eight against Oregon, Hairston had all eight against Northwestern and they split the six against Mississippi State.

It hasn’t seemed to matter.

The Tigers have had only one kickoff land inside the 5-yard line while 10 of the 22 have come down outside the 15-yard line.

As a result, the speed demons on the kickoff coverage team have yet to pin a return inside the 20 (Oregon ended up starting at its own 13-yard line on the first kickoff of the season, but that was after a holding penalty on a return that actually went to the 24).

“We aren’t really happy there,” Miles said. “We get very good coverage at times and then we get a little sporadic. When you spray the ball (on kicks) back there, it really throws your coverage off. We’re still mixing the personnel around. We want to find the best guys. We expect to have a great kickoff team.”

Mainly, Miles expects the kickoffs to improve.

Alleman, he said, has been bothered by a weakness in his leg, although Miles said he has full range of motion and it obviously hasn’t deterred him on place kicks.

“We think with more health to Drew’s leg, we’ll start getting the distance we want,” Miles said. “We’re looking to getting his health back to full strength and looking forward to his kickoffs.”

Another option might be punter Brad Wing, although he’s missed the last two games with a leg injury.

But Wing, who came to LSU from Australia after spending time as an exchange student at Parkview Baptist, displayed a super strong leg in his one game against Oregon.

The New Orleans Saints, for instance, use punter Thomas Morstead for kickoffs.

“Wing has an opportunity once he returns to health to get a look at his leg on kickoff opportunities,” Miles said.

Failing that … well, LSU does have a women’s soccer team.