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Countdown to camp: kicking it around

7/23/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:

Of all the battles LSU dominated en route to one of the remarkable regular seasons in college football history, there was one that stood out against the rest.

On November 5, 2011 kicker Drew Alleman was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals, including a game-winning, 25-yarder in overtime that gave the Tigers a 9-6 win over Alabama in what was LSU's only down-to-the wire regular season game and a game, at the time, that appeared to give the Tigers the inside track to the national championship.

What made it dominant was Alleman's consistency in comparison to the opponent. He was 3-for-3 on a day where two Alabama kickers were 2-for-6, a statistic that drove home a larger point: As good as LSU is in other areas, special teams may be its greatest strength.

Alleman's back, bringing what LSU hopes is continued consistency in field goals. As a junior in his first season starting, the Lafayette, La., native attempted 81 place kicks and made 78. He missed on just two of 18 field goals. One of the misses was from behind 50 yards and he was perfect on field goals from 40-49 yards. He also missed on just one of 63 point after attempts on a bobbled snap.

It's not often that simply being consistent can make one dominant, but when you consider that opponents missed six more field goals than the Tigers, making 17 of 25, it was another area where the LSU enjoyed a decided edge.

It's part of a larger trend: LSU is generally dominant in all phases of the kicking game (including the punting game, an area we covered last week). The edge continues in kickoffs where James Hairston took over for Alleman early in the season after Alleman struggled some with kickoff distance. He went on to boot 16 touchbacks in 70 kicks while LSU opponents managed five touchbacks all season. He never kicked on out of bounds and LSU wound up having a better net kickoff average than its opponents even after the slow start.

That LSU excels in the kicking game is not accident. At a position where most teams might carry one scholarship player, LSU has two (although Alleman arrived as a preferred walk-on). LSU also is willing to use a scholarship on a snapper, replacing the departed (and remarkably consistent) Joey Crappel with Reid Ferguson, who was rated the No. 1 deep snapper in the country.

Ferguson's progress will be one of those key elements at camp few pay attention to. But at a program that quietly dominates in special teams, getting the usual good snap and the usual reliable accuracy of Alleman can make for another dominant special teams season.