Joe Mansour arrived on campus with a reputation for long, long field goals. The kind of field goals booted from the midfield logo.
“The first day I got here, the team was surrounding me,” Mansour, a freshman, said on Media Day of his introduction to UK players. “And I think I kicked a 65-yarder.”
The hype reached levels rarely seen for kickers. He was a three-time All-State selection out of LaGrange (Ga.) High School and made a 59-yarder his senior year. His range seemed almost mythical, especially considering he was supposed to replace the departed Lones Seiber, who never kicked a field goal over 50 yards in his four-year career.
When the depth chart was released Monday, Mansour was unlisted at placekicker – the position most assumed he would be starting at – and was the No. 2 punter. He is currently battling sophomore Craig McIntosh for the kickoff specialist position.
The freshman who was tabbed by UK head coach Joker Phillips as the most likely rookie to see playing time, and who “walked around like he owned the place” from the first day, won’t be assuming placekicking duties, at least for the start of the season.
The decision ultimately came down to consistency.
“We think that someday Mansour will be a guy who will line up and kick 60 plus yard field goals,” Phillips said. “Today he’s not ready to do that. He hasn’t been as consistent as we would like.”
Instead, junior Ryan Tydlacka is slated to handle both kicking and punting duties. He averaged 40 yards per punt last year, but has only attempted six kicks in his career, all in 2008. He converted three of six with a long of 51 yards.
“He has won (the placekicking) job and has been the most consistent,” Phillips said.
Regardless of who is kicking field goals, Phillips wants special teams to be a team-wide, and staff-wide, effort.
So far, new special teams coach Greg Nord has brought plenty of his own energy to the unit.
“Juice,” Phillips said is what Nord brought to the coaching staff. “(Juice) is energy, enthusiasm, excitement, passion for this job here. That’s what is going to rub off on players.”
Nord said he still plans on being aggressive in the special teams effort by using Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke in the return game. Last year, Cobb averaged 12.8 yards per punt return with one touchdown and 26.5 yards per kick return. Locke averaged 27.8 yards per kick return with one touchdown, a 100-yard scamper against Louisville.
“The kicking game, we think we have two of the most dynamic returners in this league in Locke and Cobb,” Phillips said.
In addition to Cobb and Locke, freshman tailbacks Brandon Gainer and Raymond Sanders, freshman cornerback Jerell Priester and junior safety Mychal Bailey have also been returning kicks in fall camp.
“(Special teams) will be a difference in a lot of games, and we have to sell that to our players,” Phillips said.