Aug 18, 2013
By Jon Cooper
There is no such thing as a guarantee when it comes to holding onto a roster spot, especially for a kicker.
David Scully knows that as well as anyone. He’s been there. Actually, it wasn’t that long ago (2009 to be exact) that HE was the walk-on, foot ablazin’, seeking to win the job as place-kicker, first from Scott Blair and later on from Justin Moore, with whom he shared kicking duties in 2011 and 2012.
Two years ago he became the primary kickoff man then, last year, he eventually won out as place-kicker over Moore and redshirt senior Chris Tanner.
But winning the job — as well as the graduation of Moore and Tanner — meant that heading into 2013, Scully went from the hunter to the hunted, being pursued by young, big-legged true freshman Harrison Butker.
Scully, a redshirt-senior has enjoyed being pushed and going mano-a-mano — pie-a-pie, actually — with the kid. (If you’re keeping score, each missed a field goal attempt in Saturday’s second scrimmage — Scully from 50 yards, Butker from 56.)
“It’s not a bitter rivalry. It’s a competitive friendly rivalry,” Scully said. “Hitting against [Butker] has been a fun competition. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s always fun kicking with someone who can push me back to my range and he definitely can. He has a big leg on him.”
A big leg is what got Scully on the team. After redshirting in 2009 and barely seeing the field in 2010 (he saw action in two games), he took the majority of the team’s kickoffs in 2011, blasting 43 (out of the team’s 80) 64.3 yards per kick (fifth in the ACC), with seven touchbacks (tied for fifth in the conference).
As a field goal kicker, he nearly found glory in his first collegiate attempt, at the 2011 Hyundai Sun Bowl, but his 48-yard kick on the final play of regulation, went just wide to the right. In 2012, he split time with Moore and Tanner, converting 37 of 39 PATs and making four of eight field goals attempts, including a career-long 47-yarder against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. His kickoff leg remained strong, as he averaged 61.6 yards (seventh in the ACC) on 67 kickoffs, and tripled his touchbacks total from 2011 to 21 (also ranking seventh in the conference).
But Scully has always been about more than just personal numbers. He’s about being involved on kickoff teams and pursuing return men when possible.
“It’s not in the scheme but I’m not going to back down if it comes down to it. I enjoy it,” said Scully, who has six career tackles to his credit, four of them solo. “You have to be crazy to be on kickoff and that’s got to apply to a kicker, too. You have to be crazy, whether it’s blasting it out of the end zone if that’s your thing, and especially if you shank one, you kind of get antsy and get down there and kind of make up for it.”
As Scully prepares for his final season on The Flats, he has added the role of mentor to Butker to his résumé. He has no problem showing the ropes to his potential replacement. In fact, he welcomes that responsibility.
“I’m the older one,” he said. “I’ve got that element of experience that I’ve been trying to kind of pass on to him, a lot like Scott Blair did to me when I came in. It’s my role. I know he’s got a great leg. So even if he does beat me out — which I don’t plan on — I’ve got to know my place. I’m a senior. It’s my team. I want to make sure that I’m putting in my role on the team to let us succeed.
“What’s important to me isn’t myself being on the field. It’s my team winning,” he added. “So if he’s messing something up I’m going to tell him. I’m going to pull him aside. If he’s missed three kicks in a row I’m going to tell him, ‘Hey, stop kicking. Get your mind right.'”
Getting the kid’s mind right means helping Butker follow in his footsteps — while making sure the freshman steers clear of the traps he fell into. One such trap is over-kicking.
“When you’re young you think your leg’s immortal and you can kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick,” Scully said. “You just can’t do that, especially in a long camp like this. So both me and [Special Teams] Coach [Dave] Walkosky have to pull him aside and say, ‘Hey, man, just stop for a minute. Go get a drink of water and just chill out.’ He’s a smart kid.”
Georgia Tech’s season-opener is less than two weeks away, which means the battle for place-kicking responsibilities is heading into the home stretch. Scully believes that regardless of who is named the starter, the ultimate the winner of their kicking battle will be Georgia Tech.
“It’s been close,” he said. “We’ve been going punch-for-punch. It’s been a good competition.”
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