UCLA kickers take a step forward

Kickers Kip Smith and Joe Roberts had their best day of practice Wednesday, shaking off a dismal start to training camp and regaining confidence in themselves and the confidence of their coaches and teammates.

Smith made a 42-yard field goal in a two-minute drill to close the morning practice and then kicked two solid short field goals to end drives in the red zone during the afternoon practice. He also made three of four kicks in a kicking drill to begin the afternoon practice with his final attempt, a 45-yarder, hitting the left upright.

Roberts and Smith were both booming kickoffs into the end zone during special teams practice and Roberts made three of three field goals attempts during the kicking drills, but did not have an attempt during the live session.

"I always knew I had it in me, but it didn’t happen until yesterday when I felt comfortable," Smith said. "I was too tense so I just loosened up and tried not to think about it too much. That’s what I did and focused on my form and it’s working."

Smith said a team bonding session Tuesday night helped. Teammates got together and shared personal details about their lives in an attempt to get to know one another better.

"I got some things off my chest and I’m feeling great," he said. "I’m feeling the most confident since I’ve been here."

Roberts acknowledged that he had been letting the pressure of trying to win the kicking job get to him, but remembered that pressure is part of the job.

"It’s kind of the life we chose," he said. "We were born with the talent to kick the ball and we all know we can. We’ve been doing it for years now and pressure is something we chose so we have to do it. We have to kick in front of 60,000 people and whoever is watching at home."

Special teams coach Angus McClure wasn't all that concerned with the early struggles of the kickers given that both are redshirt freshmen trying to replace Kai Forbath--one of the top kickers in school and NCAA history.

"We went through the same growing pains when I coached the field goal unit in 2007 with Kai," he said. "We’re doing the same type of things as we did then. They've been inconsistent as most freshmen are, so we’re just working on getting them more consistent."