Weis to use multiple kickers against Georgia Tech
Chris Khorey | Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The race to be Notre Dame’s starting placekicker has narrowed to two.
Irish coach Charlie Weis released a depth chart Monday that showed sophomore Nate Whitaker and freshman Brandon Walker as co-starters – which left sophomore Ryan Burkhart out of the picture entirely.
“In certain situations, they’re both the lead guy,” Weis said. “They’re the two guys. It was three, now it’s two, and they’re the two.”
Weis said that Whitaker and Walker will be used situationally, but did not say what those situations might be.
“I can see both Brandon Walker and Nate Whitaker both playing a role on both kickoffs and field goals,” Weis said. “The first time we go to kick a field goal, it might make a difference where the ball is to see who’s the kicker.”
Walker, Whitaker and Burkhart were competing to replace Carl Gioia, who made eight of 13 field goal attempts in 2006.
Whitaker, a walk-on, appeared in the Stanford game last season, kicking off once. The kick traveled 50 yards.
Weis said he wasn’t surprised that the non-scholarship player performed so well against Walker and Burkhart, both of whom are on scholarship.
“Nate Whitaker, even last year, was one of the guys with one of the strongest legs on the team,” Weis said. “I’m not worrying about whether a guy is a scholarship player or a walk-on. Whoever the best guy is, they play.
“Nate will be kicking in the game on Saturday.”
Walker, a true freshman, was mainly a punter in high school, attempting just 20 field goals in his junior and senior seasons and making 13 of them.
But the Findlay, Ohio native says he feels confident he can do whatever the Irish coaching staff asks.
“To be honest, as long as the team wins, that’s my forte,” Walker said. “Punting, kickoffs, field goals, whatever gives us the best chance to win I’ll do.”
Whatever he does, however, Walker is a perfectionist.
“Inside 40 yards, I want to be 100 percent,” he said. “Outside 40 yards, well, I want to be 100 percent.”
Walker said Notre Dame’s fifth-year senior punter, Geoff Price, has helped all the young kickers with their mechanics.
“Geoff Price is pretty much an All-American candidate,” Walker said. “I’m trying to soak up as much that he says as possible. He always jokes that he’s as good of a coach as he is a player.”
And while Price – who along with junior quarterback Evan Sharpley is listed as the holder for field goals – will be on the field to help the youngsters when they attempt kicks, Walker says he isn’t nervous to play in front of 80,000 people on Saturday.
“To be honest, kicking in front of coaches is much harder than kicking in front of fans,” he said. “Adrenaline is something you build off. Most kickers would tell you they kick it five yards further in games than they do in practice.”
Associate Athletic Director John Heisler said NBC play-by-play broadcaster Tom Hammond will return to the broadcast booth for Notre Dame’s second home game, on Sept. 22 against Michigan State. Hammond will be in Japan this week covering the World Track and Field Championships.
NBC, which owns the rights to all Notre Dame home games, will replace Hammond for Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech with Bob Papa, who is the radio voice of the New York Giants.