Redshirt freshman Kip Smith will get the first crack at the field goal kicking duties when UCLA opens its season Saturday at Houston, leaving Jeff Locke to punt and kick off, coach Rick Neuheisel said Thursday.
Smith, recruited as the replacement for former All-American Kai Forbath, has been a bit inconsistent since spring, but seems to have settled enough in the last week to earn the job. Neuheisel said Wednesday that the job would be a game-time decision, but reversed his stance in the last 24 hours after watching Smith kick. Smith made a 30-yard field goal to cap the two-minute drive Thursday in practice.
"I just believe that Kip will respond and he knows that this team is behind him and we’re going to be behind him and hopefully he’ll find that consistency and become the kicker that he’s certainly gifted enough to be," Neuheisel said.
Neuheisel said Smith would have his full confidence during the game and that he wouldn't hesitate to send Smith on to the field in a field goal situation.
"When it’s time to kick a field goal, it’s his turn to go in there and make it and we’re all going to block for him and get the hold down and count on him to do just what he was born to do which is knock it through the pipes," Neuheisel said.