Notre Dame junior kicker Kyle Brindza is the latest member of the Fighting Irish to find himself on a pre-season award watch list after being selected as one of 30 kickers on the 2013 Lou Groza Award watch list.
Given annually since 1992 to the nation’s top kicker, the Lou Groza Award, is one of the few post-season honors available for kickers making the distinction special for Brindza, especially considering he did not start the 2012 season as Notre Dame’s starting place kicker.
Nick Tausch began the 2012 season as Notre Dame’s place kicker, but after suffering an injury in the week one win over Navy, Brindza stepped in the following week against Purdue and went on to kick himself to a record setting season.
Brindza broke both the single season attempts and makes record for fields with 23 made field goals on 31 tries besting the previous records of 21 and 28 both of which were previously held by John Canrey.
Brindza was also clutch when it counted for the Irish. In his first career start, Brindza nailed the game winner against Purdue after Tommy Rees came off the bench to lead the Irish down the field in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. A few weeks later when Stanford rolled into town in front of the ESPN College Gameday crew, Brindza connected on a game tying 22 yarder with 20 seconds left in a driving rainstorm to force overtime.
Against Oklahoma, Brindza connected on two 40+ yarders in the fourth quarter while the issue was still very much in doubt in Norman including a 46 yarder that gave the Irish a two score lead with less than three and a half minutes remaining. In the season finale against USC, when the Irish offense had trouble putting the ball in the end-zone, Brindza was there to kick the Irish to victory with a five field goal game tying another school record. One of five makes came from a career long 52 yards out as the first half expired.
Along with the big kicks though also came a few ups and downs during Brindza’s sophomore campaign. Against Pitt, he missed an extra point that luckily was turned into a moot point when Everett Golson later scampered in for a game tying two point conversion in the 4th quarter. Brindza was also just 1 for 3 in a three point victory over BYU with one of his misses coming from inside of 30 yards.
As Brindza heads into his second season as the Irish place kicker, there is a chance that his role will expand to cover punting duties as well. The Irish left spring practice with the punter’s role still very much in doubt with a punting competition to ensue this fall.
If Brindza is able to improve on his consistency – especially inside of 40 yards – he will be a great weapon for the 2013 Fighting Irish. With what is likely to be another dominant defense and an offense that lost its starting quarterback, points will be at a premium for the Irish this fall and Brindza is likely going to have a chance to break his own records.
Notre Dame’s defense is not going to allow opposing offenses to put too many points on the board and the Irish offense under Tomym Rees has at times had problems finding the end-zone once they are in the red-zone. Combine those two and you have the recipe for a lot of very makable field attempts for Brindza this fall. Additional attempts could also be in store for Brindza in situations where the Brian Kelly of a few years ago may have went for it on fourth down as opposed to kicking now that he has the luxury of such a stout defense.
Should Brindza find himself holding up the Groza Award at season’s end, he would be the first Notre Dame kicker to do so. David Ruffer was a finalist a few years back and arguably should have won the award however.
Notre Dame will face three kickers this year on the 2013 Groza Watch list. All three are listed below along with their 2012 season stats.
- Nate Freese – Boston College – 18/20 FGs, 24/24 PATs
- Brendan Gibbons – Michigan – 16/18 FGs, 45/45 PATs
- Michael Hunnicutt – Oklahoma – 17/21 FGs, 57/59 PATs
No that is not a misprint, Oklahoma’s kicker did attempt 58 PATs last year. Just a reminder, 57 of those attempts came against teams other than Notre Dame. I guess that’s why Notre Dame has so many defensive players on the Bednarik Award Watch List.