As much as fans might not want to admit it, kickers are players too. They’re actually quite important these days.
Sure, they aren’t gym animals and most of them can barely outrun me in the 40. I played soccer, so I should be able to hold my own.
Anyway, even the rough SEC needs scrappy kickers to get by. During the 2010 season, 15 games involving SEC teams were determined by three points or less. The SEC actually went 3-4 against nonconference foes in these games, including Auburn’s 22-19 win over Oregon in the national championship where Wes Byrum kicked one through the uprights as time expired.
Byrum also nailed one in overtime to beat Clemson last season.
Florida punter Chas Henry, who filled in for regular kicker Caleb Sturgis for most of last season, also missed a game-tying 42-yard field goal in a 10-7 loss at home to Mississippi State, but later redeemed himself with a game-winning field goal in overtime to beat Georgia.
And Tennessee won’t soon forget North Carolina’s field goal at the end of the fourth to tie the Vols in the Music City Bowl or the eventual game-winning one the Tar Heels kicked in the second overtime.
Obviously, not all games came down last-second field goals, but in a league that displays similar talent up and down, games are going to come down to the wire and kickers are going to be crucial.
Here’s a look at returning kickers in the SEC:
Bryson Rose, Ole Miss (16-18, .889)
Blair Walsh, Georgia (20-23, .870)
Zach Hocker, Arkansas (16-19, .842)
Derek Depasquale, Mississippi State (10-12, .833)
Cade Foster, Alabama (7-9, .778)
Jeremy Shelley, Alabama (12-16, .750)
Craig McIntosh, Kentucky (11-15, .733)
Michael Palardy, Tennessee (5-7, .714)
Ryan Fowler, Vanderbilt (8-13, .615)
Caleb Sturgis, Florida (2-4, .500)