Begley now knows pace of college game

August 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Taylor Begley never knew a college football game lasted so long until last year.

"The big thing about going to kick in college is learning how to stay loose," said Begley. "In high school, there are no TV timeouts. You play 12-minute quarters and the game is over in two hours or so. In college, the games go on for an eternity.

"I know more now about how to pace myself and not kill myself in the first half trying to stay loose. I learned not to spend so much time walking around because that will make you tired. I learned to sit as much as I could because the game is a marathon, not a sprint."

Begley goes into his sophomore season at Kentucky listed as UK's No. 1 placekicker based on his 2002 performance. He made nine of 14 field goal attempts last year, including three of four in his collegiate debut against Louisville that earned him Southeastern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. He hit 49-yard field goals against both Middle Tennessee and Arkansas.


He also made what would have been a game-winning field goal against LSU if the Tigers had not completed a miracle pass on the game's final play to win the game. Still, that kick and the one he made to help beat Louisville will also help the former Boyle County kicker this year.

"I think making a kick like I did against LSU does help my confidence," Begley said. "If I get in that situation again, then I know I have made a kick like that in the clutch before. You have proven yourself and know you can do it again.

"Experience matters a lot because you know what to expect. Going into the Louisville game last year I had never played in front of more than 8,000 fans. Getting used to playing in front of big crowds helps. I'll never go out there as cool as a cucumber. I'll always be tight. But at least I have a routine now to handle that pressure."

He also has a new special teams coach in Steve Ortmayer, who helped teams win two Super Bowls and has 25 years of NFL coaching experience. Ortmayer's style and philosophy differs from that of Mark Nelson, Begley's coach at UK in 2001 and 2002.

"I've learned I have to be more solid with my fundamentals," Begley said. "Coach Ortmayer is really good at helping with that. Coach Nelson was a great coach, but coach Ortmayer has been around enough that he can give you tips on your kicking form.

"Coach Nelson was more of a stay out of the way guy and let you do your own thing. Coach Ortmayer gives more tips and direction."

Ortmayer convinced Begley not to get so far to the side on his field goal attempts. That will help kicks stay straight rather than tail off at the end.

"Its just a half-step difference, but it is definitely different," Begley said. "You have all that muscle memory of doing something one way and you have to de-program what you have been doing. At first it was frustrating, but I'm learning and adjusting because I know it will help me."

Begley went into preseason practice hoping not only to keep his job as UK's No. 1 placekicker, but also to take the job on kickoffs.

"It is a possibility, but I definitely focused more on placekicking all summer," Begley said. "That is where I was successful last year. But there might be a possibility I could do both things if I really have a good training camp."

Begley was more worried about how he would mesh with a new snapper and holder after the graduation of Coleman Barnes and Glenn Pakulak.

"Everything has to work right for the kick to be good. It's about more than the kicker and you just never know how everything will work until you actually get in a game and see what happens," Begley said.

A look at the other phases of Kentucky's special teams follows:

* Punter.

This has been Rich Brooks' biggest worry for months because no one came close in spring practice to matching Glenn Pakulak's talent. Juniors Sevin Sucurovic and Anthony Thornton figure to wage a spirited battle that might be not determined until the week of the opening game.

Outlook: Trouble. Pakulak's All-American leg helped win games last year and made opponents have to go longer distances to score. No matter who wins this job, there will be a significant dropoff from last year.

* Return specialist.

No one in the country was better than Derek Abney last year. He had six returns for scores and even taking out the halo rule that gave a punt returner extra room to catch should not deter Abney's effectiveness. What might have an impact is if other teams kick away from him.

Kentucky is still searching for another return specialist to go with Abney. Running back Arliss Beach returned kickoffs with Abney last year, but freshman John Logan could get a chance on kickoffs because of his speed.

Outlook: This will be a strength for Kentucky, but no way can the Cats be as good as last year. Abney was just too special. Most teams will kick away from him, but that should mean teams will give up yardage to make sure Abney doesn't get the ball.

Central Kentucky News Articles