The football season might seem in the distance but here at Vanquish the Foe we’re counting down the days until the first game against the Utes. To help ease our way into the season, we’re going to spend every day exploring a specific question pertaining to BYU Football. Some of the questions will focus on important topics (offensive play calling) and others will explore the subjects of a rather ... inconsequential nature.
Today we’re going to talk about who will take on the kicking duties as Jake Oldroyd makes his triumphant return to Provo.
In a recent job interview, I compared my prospective role to that of an offensive lineman. The interviewer had already established himself as a dedicated football fan, so I had a good feeling that the analogy would land. My responsibility was to set other team members up for success, those who shine in the spotlight and embrace the attention. Similarly, our role was seldom understood or recognized by others unless a mistake was made. His reaction? “That’s probably the best comparison I could think of for this job.”
This conversation got me thinking about the roles of each position group on the football field and how we see them. The offensive skill players are highly scrutinized but also receive a large share of the credit for success. Defensive lineman will get called out if the opposing quarterback is throwing the ball at ease, but then a good secondary can cover up a lackluster front. And for both offensive and defensive players, their success or failure can be attributed to the play-calling.
The only football players that are truly on an island are kickers. Sure the long snapper and holder have to do their jobs but more often that not if a kick sails wide, the camera will zoom in on the kicker as he sulks on his way to the bench. Similar to the offensive lineman, fans usually recognize the presence of the kicker when they fail. You don’t give a second thought to a made extra point but a missed one will have you cursing the kicker for the rest of the weekend.
But if that kicker connects on the last second field goal to win the game? That young man can become a campus legend. Such is the case for the recently returned Jake Oldroyd.
Based on the way that BYU fans pay respect to his name (there are those who still call him Jake the Make) you would think that Oldroyd was a record-setting quarterback or stud linebacker. Alas he is just a kicker, and if we’re honest with ourselves, a relatively inexperienced one.
If you look at Jake Oldroyd’s stat sheet you might surprised to see that he has only attempted four field goals and one extra point. His 2016 season was cut short, limiting him to three made field goals, with his only miss a 50+ yarder against UCLA. But those three field goals came in the highest of pressure situations.
We all remember the 33-yarder against Arizona. Rhett Almond had a couple of shaky attempts earlier in the game and Jake got the call with time winding down to seal the win. He did his part, the Cougs won and the walk-on that was still wearing his green high school cleats was celebrated. He followed up his game-winning performance with aplomb as he drilled two 40+ yard attempts against Utah, both of which could have cleared the uprights if they were only four feet wide. And it so happens that those were the last kicks that he made for BYU, after sustaining a season-ending injury the following game.
Now that he’s back on campus he’ll be in competition against Skyler Southam, a kicker who came to BYU with much higher expectations than his competition. A state record holder in the state of Utah and a US Army All-American, Skyler was expected to be the next great kicker for the Cougs. In his freshman season Southam didn’t set any school records but he was fairly consistent, all things considered.
As the placekicker, Southam was 11-16 on field goal attempts and was 42-44 on extra points. Again it wasn’t all that memorable of a season but he was still serviceable. He was a perfect 7-7 on field goal attempts under 40 yards and he kicked a 45-yard game-winning field goal against Wisconsin. It didn’t come as time expired but it was still the difference in the game. There is obvious room for improvement but he showed what he’s capable of in his first season.
So with Oldroyd back and Southam ready to improve in year two, who will win the kicking battle that will surely come in fall camp?
Odds are Southam will remain the starter. He has a full year under his belt and has been able to fully shake off the mission rust. The main area of improvement needs to be in the kicks of 40+ yards. Last year Skyler was 4-9 from that distance and didn’t inspire much confidence. Oldroyd’s sample size from that distance is VERY small so it’s hard to say if he’d be much better. Jake has been away for two years but could continue to build on his folk-hero status by consistently drilling kicks between 40-50 yards, like he did against Utah.
Either way it will be a win for the Cougars because there are two decent options at their disposal.