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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Meet the run-ons: K Chris Gulla

By Josh Moyer

Every weekday, as part of an ongoing series, NittanyNation will take a closer look at a Penn State walk-on.

Vitals: Kicker Chris Gulla, Toms River (N.J.) North, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds.

Picked Penn State over: Walk-on invitations from Maryland, South Carolina and Rutgers. Scholarship offers from UMass and Div. II Lehigh.

Why he picked PSU: His grandparents were big Penn State fans, so he grew up one himself. His sister currently goes there, too, and he feels comfortable on campus. He also named the coaching staff, facilities and education as the main factors in his decision.

State of the position: Sam Ficken ended his season on a high note, but he still doesn't appear to be the long-term solution at kicker. He wasn't trusted over 40 yards, and his longest kick was a 37-yarder. Redshirt junior Kevin DiSanto couldn't unseat Ficken throughout his early season struggles, and those are the only two returning placekickers on the roster.

Strengths: Gulla's leg strength is a definite plus. Although he kicked from a tee during games, he said he was "solid from 55 yards and beyond" during practices and college camps without that tee. He can punt and shows versatility, but his specialty is definitely field-goal kicking.

Weaknesses: Gulla has to keep his head down a little more when he follows through. Kicking is a mental game, too, so he'll have to adjust to performing in high-pressure situations in front of 100,000 fans. He said that kind of transition from high school to college will be a critical one.

Potential impact: He could very well be the starter in 2013. He'll definitely push Ficken, and he'll likely start at some point in his career. If Ficken struggles early -- or Penn State just needs someone who could attempt a 50-yard FG -- Gulla could be called on. He's the run-on who's most likely to garner immediate playing time. It's unlikely he'll unseat Alex Butterworth as a freshman, but he has the ability to eventually handle both tasks.

Quotables: "I'm definitely going in there with the mindset of winning the starting job this year as kicker and punter. I'm actually going to camp July 1 to start taking snaps, and it'll be an open competition from there to the start of the season, and I want that spot. It's just me against whoever else is there."

Getting to know Gulla: Favorite movie(s) is the Dark Knight Trilogy. ... Favorite thing on TV is college basketball. ... Favorite food is BBQ and pulled pork. ... Favorite musician is Bob Marley. ... Dream vacation spot is Hawaii.