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Jennings knows a redshirt year will help him

August 17, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

It's a whole new ballgame for David Jennings, and he can't wait for the opening kickoff.

Jennings won't be the one doing the kicking, at least not this season, when TCU takes the field. But he'll be among kindred spirits and quality kicking coaches while he waits his turn at the tee, and for now that will be enough.

The former Boyle County high school placekicker has already made the trip to Fort Worth, Texas, to get settled into college life and college football. And he already knows that he will be redshirted in his first year as a walk-on at TCU.

"They're going to go ahead and redshirt me, so I'll have a whole year to get used to the college system and get a year of kicking under my belt. I'll have a whole year of just solid practice."

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That would probably sound more like a sentence than an opportunity to many players, but Jennings said he's eager just to learn.

He'll be studying under senior kicker Nick Browne, a candidate for the Lou Groza Award who was named fourth-team All-America by The Sporting News last year. Jennings says that experience can only make him develop into a better kicker.

"I'm going to be working with a coaching staff that's produced two of the nation's best kickers in the past six years," he said. "And they've got a fourth-team All-American coming back who I get to learn from."

The learning began long before Jennings set foot in Fort Worth. The summer program the TCU coaches gave him included two drills they wanted him to master: kicking the ball through the uprights from just 7 yards away (to teach him how to get some height on his kicks) and sending kickoffs to at least the 5-yard line while keeping them inside the left hash mark, the same side of the field from which he starts, to make it easier for teammates to cover the kickoff.

"They've told me what they expect of me," he said.

He also attended the kicking camp run by former University of Kentucky and Cincinnati Bengals kicker Doug Pelfrey, where he got to hobnob with top college kickers and punters, including Penn State's Robbie Gould, his counselor at the camp, as well pros such as Danny Kight of the New York Jets.

Jennings said Taylor Begley, his predecessor at Boyle and now a kicker at Kentucky, once pointed out that the major difference in kicking at the college level as opposed to high school is that flaws in technique are more easily exposed.

"It's not learning it all over; it's just doing the little things," Jennings said. "You get a chance to refine your skills so much more and find out so many little things that can help make you a better kicker."

Another thing Jennings might be doing is throwing the discus and/or shot for the TCU track team come next spring. He finished second and third, respectively, in those events in Class AA at the state championships last spring and said throwing in college was a possibility, and he said he still doesn't know whether or not he'll pursue it.

Meanwhile, he'll be working on his engineering degree and enjoying the new freedoms all college freshmen find.

"I like the idea of being on my own," he said.

But with the support system in place to help him become a better kicker, he isn't really on his own at all.

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