Special teams coach John Baxter is encouraged by the progress of USC Football’s kickers this fall, despite public perception over camp struggles.
There has been a wave of concern through the USC Football fanbase regarding the Trojans’ kicking situation heading into the 2017 season.
Special teams coach John Baxter is having none of it.
While observers worried about Michael Brown and Chase McGrath missing more kicks than they hit during Week 2 of fall camp, Baxter pointed to near misses on well-hit balls.
“I know casually from the sideline everybody worries about the result,” said Baxter, referencing the struggles of the kicking game as reported last week. “The result matters in the games. I can’t predict it. It might go good and it might not. But regardless of what happens, I’m here to coach them.”
USC expected to go into the 2017 season without much concern at kicker. However, the dismissal of Rose Bowl-winner Matt Boermeester threw a wrench in those plans and now the Trojans are looking for a replacement
Brown arrived last fall on a blueshirt scholarship while McGrath joined up as a walk-on this fall. Both have had their ups and downs this camp, but Baxter insists that too much can be read into looking at just misses and makes.
“I’ve been encouraged by the kickers every single day,” Baxter said. “Regardless of public opinion, we are in training camp. We’re trying centers. We’re trying holders. We’re trying kickers.”
Baxter likened his two kickers to back up quarterbacks Matt Fink and Jack Sears, inexperienced players who can find great value in fall camp. The only problem is, Fink and Sears won’t have to go out and perform unless catastrophe strikes.
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Brown and McGrath are being forced into action early, but like Fink and Sears, that’s what the preparation is for — being ready to go in unexpectedly.
“I’m encouraged from where they’re at,” Baxter said. “I think Michael and Chase are both really good players and we’re lucky we have them.”
Fortunately, things have improved for the kicking game in Week 3. During the Trojans practice at the Coliseum on Tuesday, Brown was perfect on his kicks while McGrath missed just one.
Whether they’re hitting or missing, it’s Baxter’s job to sort them out.
“The number one thing every player deserves is a coach who believes in him,” Baxter said. “If we start the season 0-for-5 on field goals, I’m here to coach them. I’m here to teach them. I’m here to train them. We’re all here to support them.”