The Kohl's kicking showcase tour rolled into the Northeast this weekend with a stop in East Stroudsburg, Pa. The unsung MVP of this camp was Mother Nature herself. The night before the event, the Pennsylvania skies poured heavy rain and shot lightening. While things looked grim only a few hours before the camp, more than 20 kickers still showed up ready to compete, trying to get their name on the recruiting map. The camp ended up being a dry and fairly sunny one. Although there was some wind and a good chill in the air, the conditions were not bad to compete in. This camp was not the strongest field of the showcase camps, but there was some talent. Here are some highlights from Sundays outing.
It was a tight battle for this distinction. One participant looked to be a strong contender early, but tailed off in the afternoon session and another came on strong in the afternoon. In the end, Ross Krautman (Franklin Lakes, N.J. / Ramapo) held them all off and proved to be the camp's top kicker with a consistent and strong performance from beginning to end. Krautman is not big in stature, but he carries himself with big confidence and is a kicker who works hard at his craft. Kicking since middle school, this 2010 prospect works with his own kicking coach on a regular basis -- meeting with him as many as three times-per-week during parts of the year. You can see the attention to detail in his performance; he is a pretty consistent and accurate kicker. He was 9-of-10 in field goal charting and as a junior he stated that he was perfect on PATs and has only missed one in his high school career. He also kicked off the ground as a junior, which is impressive, and claims to be the first high school kicker in the state of New Jersey to do so in over 50 years. Krautman has a strong leg, but does not display elite leg strength. What he may lack in leg strength, though, he makes up for in a competitive nature -- it showed in the kicking competitions. He won one round of the height and accuracy competition and tied in the double elimination distance competition, but he was the only one to hit from 50 yards. Krautman has yet to land an offer, but he said he is receiving interest from several programs including Rutgers, East Carolina, Syracuse, and Miami (Ohio). He plans to hit several camps this summer. The ceiling may not be too much higher for Krautman, but he did prove he is a competitive and consistent performer.
Strong early and strong late
Sean Baner (South Hampton, Pa./William Tennent) really grabbed attention during the morning charting session and looked to be cruising towards top performer honors. He participated in all three phases of this event, performing well in each one. He was 9-of-10 in the field goal charting, finished first in kickoff charting and showed good hang time finishing second in the punt charting. He displayed a strong leg and good upside and was someone we were looking forward to seeing in the afternoon competition. His afternoon showing, wasn't nearly as impressive; Baner was knocked out in the first round of both height and accuracy battles and also came up short in the field goal distance and punting competitions. He did finish strong winning the kickoff battle with a 73 yard kick with a 3.6 second hang time. At this point, Banner is getting minimal interest from colleges -- part of that could be because his team posted a winless season in 2008. Baner has some tools, but naturally needs to work on being more focused and consistent.
While Baner tailed off, Shane Whitmyer (Reading, Pa./Wilson West Lawn) was a kid who came on strong as the day progressed. He garnered some early looks -- he is a tall and athletic looking kid -- but he came out of the gate slow. He charted poorly hitting only half of his kicks, but rebounded well in the afternoon competition. He finished as the runner-up in both height and accuracy battles. He displayed good leg strength and the ability to get the ball up. He is an athletic kid who also plays wide receiver and safety for his high school. He also competes in track in the long jump and came from a two-day meet on Friday and Saturday, which may explain some the slow start. Another explanation may be that this was his first day kicking without a tee. After a rough start, he showed real promise kicking off the ground and by the end of the camp told us he was considering kicking without a tee as a senior. Whitmyer said things are quiet on the recruiting front right now, but he is just starting to get his tape out there. The all-state long-jumper is also considering possibly taking the track path in college. It would seem in either sport interest will pick up some for Whitmyer at some point.
Ugly shoes, good upside
At every kicking camp I have attended so far at least one kicker sports a pair of bright and just ugly looking kicking shoes. This camp may have had the all time fashion blunder of kicking shoes of all the camps thus far. Luke Allen (Port Jefferson, Pa.) who is actually a good-sized and good-looking kid on the huff, first grabbed attention because of his shoes. He trotted onto the field in reddish pink cleats that made him look like he was wearing two pieces of Bubble Yum on his feet. When asked why the ugly shoes, he said he just wanted something different and it seems he definitely accomplished that. His shoes were the story of the morning session as he charted poorly especially in field goals, but in the afternoon his raw ability started to overshadow the pink glow from his feet. He has an awkward approach to the ball and can look very stiff, but he showed the ability to get the ball up and threw the uprights. He won the second round of the height and accuracy competition and battled well in the first round. Allen still needs some polish -- this was his first kicking camp. He also plays soccer. In New York football and soccer are both fall sports, so he splits his time between the two. He wants to kick in college though, and he displays the upside to do it, but needs to keep developing his game. He also may need to get a second opinion next time he goes shopping for cleats.
Drake Greer (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Bishop Canevin) is a kid with a tall and lean frame and strong leg. He is one of the prospects we were looking to check out heading into the camp. It was an up and down day for the 2010 prospect. His leg strength was evident, but he had a tough time controlling the ball and many of his field goal attempts sailed wide right throughout the day. Part of the struggles may have been due to a recent adjustment to working off the ground. He obviously needs to make that jump. Although he needs improvement, it is better to go through those struggles now. Although it was an inconsistent day for Greer, there were some bright spots. He got better control of his ball in the field goal competition and tied for first with top performer Krautman. He also stepped up in the kickoff competition losing to only winner Baner and along the way posted a good kick that sailed 68 yards and had a 4.03 hang time. Greer who is receiving interest from programs such as Purdue, Utah and a few in the Ivy league, needs to get used to kicking off the ground, but flashed some good ability.
One of the most interesting camp participants was AJ Firestone (South Central, Pa. / Mercersburg Academy). He is a big boy who looks more like a lineman and does play in the trenches also for his high school. He is looking to kick in college though and has a big leg to match his frame. He took part in all three phases but his best upside in college is as a punter. He won the punt competition with a kick that sailed 51 yards and had a hang time of 4.54 seconds. He needs to in our opinion develop and refine his skills in this area as he is powerful, but inconsistent. As a place kicker he has an old school straight-on approach and his kick-offs need a lot of work.
• Jeff Ondish (Elkton, Md.) showed flashes as a punter and finished first in the punt charting, but was very inconsistent. While he displayed he can get the ball up and kick it far he needs to keep working.
• Matthew Bennett (Akron, Ohio / Walsh Jesuit) charted well in field goals hitting on 8-of-10 kicks and had displayed some flashes, but had an inconsistent day overall.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc.