Sep 3, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Harrison Butker likes the kickoff as much as anyone. He also believes in making it safer.
To that end, the freshman from Decatur, Ga., who played at Westminster the last two years, is doing his part to promote safety by basically taking it out of the game. In his college debut on Saturday, he used his booming right leg to keep Elon’s returners safe, forcing touchbacks on seven of nine kickoffs (The Phoenix returned one for 17 yards).
That ability to pin opponents back and gain field position for the defense was his most obvious strength on display on Saturday. He also was money on PATs, going 8-for-8.
The range and accuracy of his leg on field goals is about all that has yet to be seen, as Tech didn’t attempt one against Elon. Those attributes led several schools, including Auburn, Boston College, East Carolina and Michigan, to pursue the long, lanky kicker (6-3, 180), as he went 16-for-17 his senior year for Westminster, with his only miss coming from 59.
But he chose to stay home with Georgia Tech and, in training camp, earned the nod as Tech’s starting kicker, winning a hotly contested battle with redshirt-senior David Scully.
It’s the start of an amazing ride for Butker, who didn’t play football until his sophomore year of high school — preferring futbol (aka soccer).
Sting Daily talked with the big-legged freshman following the 70-0 rout of Elon.
Butker Significant Facts: Games Played: 1 Games Started: 1 First Game: 8/31/13 vs. Elon, his collegiate debut First Game Stats: PATs: 8-for-8; FIELD GOALS: None attempted First PAT: 1:29 of first quarter. No. of Kickoffs: 9 Average Kickoff Yards: 64.3 No. of Returns/Yards/Avg.: 1/17/17.0 No. of Touchbacks: 7 No. Out of Bounds: 1
FIRST DOWN: How did you benefit from your competition throughout training camp with David Scully?
Harrison Butker: Oh, I talk with Scully every day. We’re pretty good friends. He helps me with all the logistics, where to be, then for kicking about saving my leg. He’s given me a lot of pointers and helped me out a lot. I attribute a lot of my success to him in helping me out. We pushed ourselves throughout the whole preseason. We both got a lot better and both improved special teams.
SECOND DOWN: You had touchbacks on seven of your nine kickoffs in Saturday’s opening win. How much of a mark of pride is it for you to get touchbacks?
BUTKER: Every time I go out there for a kickoff that’s what I’m told to do. So if I get a touchback I’ve accomplished my job. We’re trying to be No. 1 in all phases of special teams and one of those is starting position on kickoffs. So a touchback’s the 25. If I don’t get a touchback and it’s good hang [time] we should definitely tackle [the opposing returner] within 25.
THIRD DOWN: You didn’t attempt a field goal today. How do you picture your first college field goal?
BUTKER: It being good, right down the middle. I mean an extra point is basically a field goal, so if I have the extra point straight then I know it will be a good field goal. But I’d definitely like to get out there and take the pressure and see how I do. I think I’ll do well, though.
FOURTH DOWN: Do you believe in the concept of icing the kicker?
BUTKER: No, I don’t believe it works. It just gives you more time to think about the kick, really. Coach hasn’t done that to me but if that did happen I’d just go to the sideline and just think it’s the first time going out because you don’t really want to over-think the kick. Just erase your memory and go out and picture it being the first kick.
EXTRA POINT: We now know about your big leg on kickoffs. Is there anything we should know about your ability on onside kicks?
BUTKER: We’ve got some stuff up our sleeve. We’ll see what happens this season.
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