Kickers wage battle for starting duties at Southeast
Friday, August 13, 2010
Southeast Missouri State's kicker and punter positions feature players who never have appeared in a college game.
The duo battling for those spots say don't worry. Drew Geldbach and Joe Vucic believe that critical part of the team will be in good hands no matter who emerges.
About one week into fall camp, Geldbach and Vucic are waging a spirited yet friendly competition to fill the kicker and punter positions.
"It's just starting to get where we can see it," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said following Thursday morning's workout at steamy Houck Stadium. "But they're both doing a good job."
Things appear too close to call right now and could remain that way almost to the Sept. 2 season opener at Ball State.
"There probably won't be a definite answer until the week of the Ball State game," Geldbach said. "We're both just trying to prove ourselves."
The positions are wide open after All-American punter Doug Spada, Southeast's punter and kicker the past three years, completed his eligibility and Curtis Huge left the program following spring practice.
Huge, a redshirt freshman in 2009, filled in well at kicker late in the season when Spada was injured.
"I think we're neck and neck," Geldbach said. "We're working hard every day."
Said Vucic: "Competition is good. It makes you better."
Geldbach and Vucic have formed a solid relationship while competing against each other.
"I feel like we're friends," said Vucic, who added with a laugh, "I got his number the first time I met him."
Geldbach and Vucic both came to Southeast after things didn't work out like they had hoped at previous schools.
Geldbach, a redshirt sophomore, said he was recruited by Southeast after an all-state career at Eureka High School in suburban St. Louis.
"They offered me as a preferred walk-on, but I didn't take it," said Geldbach, a 2008 Eureka graduate.
Geldbach instead attended the University of Missouri, where he planned to play for the Tigers. That never happened.
"I knew I was going to have to earn things, but the coaches told me I would have a spot on the team," Geldbach said. "But things didn't work out."
So Geldbach transferred to Southeast, where he redshirted last year while practicing with the squad.
"SEMO gave me a second chance," Geldbach said. "I'm glad to be here."
Vucic began his college career at Division I-A Kent State in his native Ohio. He redshirted last year before deciding to find a new home.
"They had plenty of kickers and punters and I wanted to try somewhere else," said Vucic, like Geldbach an all-stater in high school.
With Vucic back on the market, he said he got a call from Southeast special teams coach Chris Norris.
"I knew nothing about the school, but I came to visit and I really liked it," Vucic said. "It's a smaller program and you can get to know everybody. We had like 120 players at Kent State."
Norris said earlier in the week that Vucic is the front-runner for the punting job while Geldbach holds a slight edge at kicker, but things are far from being set in stone.
"Joe is a nice addition. He has a real strong leg and has good hang time on his punts," Norris said. "Drew had a good summer and is doing a great job on extra points and field goals."
Samuel had pretty much the same take on things Thursday, although Vucic boomed several impressive field goals to finish off the practice.
"Joe looks like his punting is probably ahead of his kicking," Samuel said. "Drew is doing a good job with the kicking. It looks like he worked hard this summer."
Samuel emphasized that Geldbach and Vucic both have a long way to go, but he expects them to get there.
"It's got to get better, but I feel a lot better now than in the spring," Samuel said.
Samuel said he would prefer that neither Geldbach nor Vucic do both the punting and kicking so they can stay as fresh as possible.
But Spada handled both chores the past few years, and Samuel isn't ruling out a similar scenario.
"In a perfect world, it'd be nice if nobody did both," Samuel said. "But the best guy will go."
Southeast's first of two scrimmages will be at 8 a.m. Saturday at Houck Stadium. It had been scheduled for 9 a.m. but was changed due to the extreme heat and humidity.
The scrimmage, open to the public, is expected to last about two hours.