April 15, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Harrison Butker is not big on change — especially during a season — but he’s not affected by Georgia Tech’s coaching adjustments in a big way, either.
As the Yellow Jackets move through their third week of spring practice, the senior kicker is working with his third “special teams coach” in four years.
He doesn’t seem to mind.
Head coach Paul Johnson’s decision to replace special teams Ray Rychleski with a second offensive line coach (Ron West) and spread special teams duties among multiple coaches hardly figures to impact Butker.
Maybe there will be subtle tweaks to the Jackets’ kickoff strategies. Or, maybe not. B-backs coach Lamar Owens will coordinate special teams, yet that’s probably not going to change Butker’s job description.
“I’m really comfortable with coach Owens; he recruited me so I’m good friends with him. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “[Offensive line] coach [Mike] Sewak is going to have field goal, and [defensive backs] coach [Joe] Speed is going to have kickoffs.
“This is a great year for this to happen. As a senior, I’ve kind of been through the ropes and we kind of don’t need as much coaching as I did freshman year.”
Butker’s been coached up in a hurry.
He waited until his sophomore year to begin playing football at Westminster, where he lettered four times in soccer (twice playing on state championship teams) and three times in football and basketball in addition to earning All-America honors as a senior kicker.
College kickers don’t typically receive as much technical coaching as teammates, at least not on campus. They’re still coached on finer points.
He maintains contact with a high school coach, and much as collegiate golf and tennis players maintain relationships with swing coaches while in school, Butker stays in touch with Jamie Kohl, founder of Kohl’s Kicking in Wisconsin.
With 246 points in three seasons, including 83 as a freshman and 98 as a sophomore, Tech’s career record of 322 – set by Luke Manget from 1999-2002 – is in 76 points away.
That’s in range, and so will be a Sunday meeting with his primary mentors.
A glance at kohlskicking.com reveals that the group will be holding a camp Sunday in Tiger, Ga., in the northwest corner of our state. Perhaps Butker will go, looking for pointers to help become the Jackets’ all-time leading scorer next fall.
“I go to camps over the summer, and I figure stuff out there. For the most part they tell you what you need to look at,” he explained. “Being a fourth year, a senior kicker, by now I should know what to look for. I watch a lot of film, and I kind of know the basics of what I did wrong.
“If it’s a big problem, I guess, there are people I can go to. Kohl’s kicking . . . pretty much got me a scholarship, they got my name out. I go to those camps over the summer. Jamie Kohl is a guy I go to. He sends a ton of guys to college and from college to the NFL. He goes all across the country.”
Butker’s chipped away at the scoring record in tiny bits.
He set the school record for PATs in a season with 66 in 2014 and already holds the school mark for career PATs. With 162 (in 164 tries), he passed Manget (160) in Tech’s penultimate game last season, at Miami.
Johnson does not call for many field goals, but Butker’s kicked big ones among his 28.
He nailed the game winner from 24 yards as time expired at Virginia Tech in 2014, and later that he sent the Jackets to overtime at Georgia with a career-long 53-yarder as time expired in regulation. The Jackets, of course, won that one.
One thing won’t change no matter who coaches what. The goal on kickoffs will almost always be to send the football into the end zone. Of Butker’s 221 career kickoffs, 123 have been touchbacks.
And when he has a question about nuance, Butker will keep calling on Kohl, a high school coach with whom he maintains a relationship, or his father, Harrison.
“You kind of have to be your own coach. You have to find your own kind of close circle of guys to ask for tips, or ask them to look at,” he said. “My dad likes to look at my film and talk about stuff . . . and Jamie Kohl and even other kickers point out stuff. For the most part, you don’t want to over-think stuff.
“If you start to change stuff during the season it might go bad. That’s kind of offseason and summer stuff. If you’re in the middle of a round of golf, you don’t want to change your swing . . . unless it’s a bye week. You really don’t want to tweak too much during the season.”