Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer isn’t worried about Britton Colquitt handling all of the kicking duties this fall.
After all, one player kicking off, punting and kicking extra points and field goals isn’t exactly unprecedented.
Fulmer is quick to point to South Carolina’s Ryan Succop, who earned All-SEC honors last year while handling all three aspects of the kicking game.
“It’s not a concern at all,” Fulmer said. “Succop does it very well for South Carolina. Other people have done it.”
It’s just that no one wearing orange and white has done it a long, long time.
The last time Tennessee used an ironman kicker dates at least to the 1960’s. It might even go back to the single-wing days, says UT sports information director Bud Ford.
Colquitt, like most kickers, did it all at Bearden High School — five years ago.
“I’m pretty comfortable with it,” said Colquitt, a preseason All-SEC selection at punter. “I’m used to doing it from high school.”
A combination of Colquitt’s strong right leg and the slower-than-anticipated development of redshirt freshman Daniel Lincoln makes the junior UT’s best choice for now.
Saturday’s first full scrimmage of the fall helped illustrate the advantages of using Colquitt full time.
He drilled a 51-yarder, as did Lincoln, albeit with more room to spare. He had enough distance on a 56-yard attempt. Only two other UT kickers have connected from a longer distance in a game. He finished 4-of-6 on field goal tries; Lincoln was 4-of-7.
On kickoffs, he was the only one of four kickers to put a ball into the end zone. While Lincoln and others had difficulty kicking inside the 10, Colquitt was consistently putting the ball near the 5 — and he showed the ability to put the ball where coaches want.
That will be key in dealing with the NCAA’s new rule that moves kickoffs back 5 yards to the 30-yard line in an effort to speed up games. Also key will be Colquitt’s mental — and physical — approach to an increased workload.
“Mentally, it will be a new challenge, but it’s something I embrace, something I think can help each aspect of the game,” he says.
Colquitt points out that kicking a football to score points is inherently more emotional than punting.
The mechanics of placekicking aren’t all that different from soccer, where Colquitt helped Bearden finish undefeated in 2002. Punting, despite Colquitt’s occasional celebrations after booming a 60-yarder, is more of a technician’s game.
“There’s more of an excitement level in kicking than punting,” he says. “There’ll be different attitudes involved. My attitude’s pretty nonchalant in punting. I might have to get a little bit more into the game in certain situations for field goals.”
Fulmer has mentioned the possibility of using either Colquitt or Lincoln, depending on the length of the attempt in order to take some of the load off Colquitt.
During offseason workouts and into fall camp, Colquitt has been kicking less in order to preserve his leg for the season when UT appears to need it so much.
Instead of booming punt after punt, he spent more time working on his approach and his drops without actually kicking. Fulmer has used him less during fall camp, too,
Colquitt likens the return to kicking field goals and extra points to “riding a bike.” Punting remains his bread and butter, which it has been for his father Craig, cousin Jimmy and brother Dustin all of whom punted in the NFL.
“It’s still a secondary thing for me (behind) punting,” he said, “because I know that’s more important. But I’ve worked on (placekicking) a lot more than definitely I did in the past.”
During Tuesday morning’s practice, Colquitt was again more consistent than Lincoln. Fulmer said Colquitt could be doing everything this fall, and that the Vols are “back at square one” after making progress earlier in the preseason in the kicking game.
Wherever they are, they’ve got a strong leg to rely on.
“He’s a wonderful weapon,” Fulmer says, “and we’re going to use him every way we can.”
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.