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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Q&A: Kicker Gulla talks position battle

By Josh Moyer

Incoming preferred walk-on Chris Gulla (Toms River, N.J./Toms River North) will compete for the starting job at kicker once he gets on campus over the summer.

He has a strong chance to start sometime during his career. So NittanyNation recently spoke to him about his chances this season, his thoughts on PSU and what fans can expect from him.

NittanyNation: You'll arrive at Penn State on June 22, and the first game is about two months later. I know you want to start, but that's still a quick turnaround. How do you like your chances, and how disappointed would you be if you were relegated to backup?

Chris Gulla: I mean, going into camp, I've had the same mind-set since I pretty much accepted the offer to walk-on. I plan to start; that's what I worked for. I wouldn't be disappointed with the decision because I want to the best kicker to play, but I'd be more disappointed in myself.

It's just that one of the goals I have is to be the starting kicker at Penn State, and I feel like I can do that -- and there's a good opportunity for me there to help.

NN: What's the biggest enemy of a field goal kicker?

CG: The biggest thing, I think, is a lot of kickers overthink things. I work on my form a lot, so that's like a fallback. As long as I stick with my form, I know I can still keep my head down and that ball will go straight.

It's all about having confidence in yourself and knowing you can do it.

NN: Let me play Devil's advocate here for a second. You were 5-of-8 on field goals last season, and those numbers aren't really impressive. What kind of story do those numbers tell, and how will you be better on a bigger level?

CG: In college, it's more of a precise thing. We had a third-string long-snapper and a brand-new holder, so it was a little different. In college, special teams are a lot more precise so I think just practicing at college will help. We only really practiced special teams the day before games and, in college, you work with the long snapper and holder every day.

NN: Speaking of those other specialists, PSU has another walk-on, Sean Corcoran, who's a long-snapper. Have you talked much with him?

CG: Actually, we're rooming together over the summer. I went to the Blue-White Game and met him there, so we texted a couple things and he's crazy smart. He's majoring in some engineering thing, so it'll be good to have a roommate like that. On and off the field, it'll be nice to hang out.

NN: What can fans expect from you in terms of leg strength?

CG: The longest field goal I made in a game was 45 yards last year, but I'm pretty confident anywhere inside 45. The farthest I kicked at a camp was like 60 yards without a tee, just off the ground.

NN: What kind of transition is it to go from kicking off a tee in high school to kicking off the ground in college?

CG: I mean, it's definitely going to be different. But I actually kicked off the ground my junior year all throughout practices and stuff and again during my senior season. So I've been kicking off the ground for awhile, and I'm fine with that.

I'd use like a one-inch tee in games, so it wasn't like a big one. A two-inch tee is more for like freshmen and sophomores and usually when you transition from that, you go to the one-inch. So yeah, it won't be that big of a transition for me.

NN: You're also a punter, but your forte is as a field goal kicker. What do you have to do to get better with that?

CG: I think the biggest thing for me is consistency with punting. I'll hit a pretty good punt, like a long one, but then I'll hit a short one. But coaches would rather have accuracy -- hang time would be great -- so keeping it around the 40-yard range and keeping my hang time up is something I need to work on.

I feel pretty confident going into camp. I know they want me to compete for the starting job as punter, but I feel like that takes more time. The biggest thing is the drop probably because, on a field goal, the ball's jut sitting there. With punting, you got to catch it, take your steps and it's easy to be a little bit off. That's the biggest thing.

NN: How's it feel to be a month away from officially becoming a Nittany Lion?

CG: It keeps getting better and better. People are getting more excited and having guys like Coach [Ron] Vanderlinden, who's coaching special teams, it's a great surprise. He's a great coach.

All the players in the class, I just feel really at home with -- like Garrett Sickels. I'm just comfortable already.