October 20, 2012; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins kicker Brad Craddock (15) reacts after missing an otherwise game winning field goal in the closing seconds of the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland's Kicker Problem: It's Going To Get Better

If Maryland has one glaring weakness on their football team, it probably comes from the kicking department. Last season, Brad Craddock was pretty much the second-worst kicker in the ACC (outside of Niklas Sade of NC State). 37.5% of his field goals resulted in a miss, and he had the lowest extra point percentage in the ACC as well (among kickers with 10 or more attempts). He was either going to hook you up, or he was going to starve you.

The good news? It gets better.

Looking back at ACC kickers and their respective stats over the years, you start to notice a few undeniable trends when it comes to the top ten kickers in the league. Their statistics either improve year-0ver-year, or they stay relatively the same. For Craddock, that has to be a beacon of hope after his paltry 62% on field goals last year.

I decided to graph a few kickers in the ACC just to see how what I saw lined up with the numbers. The chart below lists six kickers who finished in the top 10 (percentage-wise) in field goals made. This does not factor in attempts, it’s just a raw percentage number. I will note, however, that kickers who tend to attempt more than one field goal but less than nine end up plummeting to the bottom of the pack percentage-wise. Only Chad Hedlund (Wake, 3-3), Brendan Magistro (MD, 1-1) and Chris Tanner (GT, 5-6) made the top ten in percentage despite attempting six or fewer field goals (this is out of 21 players).

 

At least percentage wise, almost all six kickers followed the trend of maintaining a similar stat line, or improving substantially. For Dustin Hopkins of Florida State, he improved significantly his freshman year, then sort of flat-lined in his production. For Casey Barth of North Carolina, his production skyrocketed after a freshman year not so different from Craddock’s, then leveled out to a more realistic ebb-and-flow rate. Chandler Catanzaro at Clemson obviously improved substantially, going from 63.6% as a freshman to 94% as a junior.

Now the X-Factor here is obviously Nate Freese of Boston College, who started his freshman year at a staggering 88% but took a disastrous regression to 62.5% his sophomore season. The explanation? Jitters. Freese was an All-American kicker to start his career, and that’s probably where he’s going to finish considering he rebounded last year to perform ever better.

Two year starters Jake Wieclaw and Cody Journell were two that, so far, have not improved, but follow the trend of remaining within their production rates. If I had to guess, the two percentage points they fell won’t matter a ton next year, as they’ll rebound back to their original levels. Or better yet, they’ll probably improve.

Obviously, percentage of kicks says nothing about where the kicks are being taken, but from looking at these statistics I’ll just tell you this: from each “zone” that a kicker attempts a field goal from (1-19 yards, 20-29 yards, 30-39 yards, etc.), neither of those players above (except Jake Wieclaw, once) fell below 66%. Obviously your percentage of made field goals goes down as the distance increases, but honestly not by a ton, and there’s usually not much of a sample size to work with.

So what does Craddock have to do in order to get better? Mostly experience some amnesia and keep on kicking. He has the leg, but it seems like more of a young player’s jitters than anything else. He was 3-5 in every zone he kicked from (except 50-yarders, where he was a perfect 1-1), and that bodes well for the future when you gauge him against other kickers who have had success.

Once Craddock gets his nerves under control a little, he should be fine.

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