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The Prospector: Kickers getting extra work hoping to land college scholarships

Colleges and UniversitiesFootballUrban MeyerIvy League

At most high school football practices, there will be a person off to the side, by himself, kicking a couple of balls around and chasing them down. He's anonymous.

He may join the squad at the end of practice for sprints. He'll be in the huddle for the post-practice coach talk.

But that's about it. The lonely life of a kicker.

That's why several Central Florida kickers enjoy being involved with Nick Fleming's weekly kicking camps at Dr. Phillips on Sundays. It gives them an opportunity for coaching tips, provides a setting where they can get to know and compete with other area kickers and gives them a couple of hours a week of 100-percent dedicated work on their skills.

Fleming, who represents All-American Kicking, works with 10-15 area kickers each week, depending on who shows.

"I think it helps these guys a ton," said Fleming. "The more you surround yourself with good athletes the better you become, and I think that the fact that the younger kids, in particular, are seeing guys like Shawn Moffitt and Michael Rasmussen and Aleem Sunanon out here makes them want to strive to get better and get to that level."

Moffitt, Rasmussen and Sunanon are three of the top kickers in Central Florida. They plan to kick in college. Fleming figures to help them with their goals.

The recruiting process for kickers is far different from that of the other position players. Colleges concentrate on filling needs at the other positions and then the coaches decide whether kicker is a position at which they can offer a scholarship. Otherwise, they'll try to coax a kicker to accept a "preferred walk-on" spot, which usually, if things work out, turn into a scholarship for the players' sophomore season.

Central Florida's class of 2011 is loaded with quality kickers. Moffitt (Dr. Phillips), Rasmussen (Lake Highland), Scott Harvey of Oviedo, Lee Morgan of Lake Mary, Camp Bissell of Timber Creek, Eric Farkas of Seminole, Tyler Gilbert of Lake Brantley, Alex Catron of Apopka and R.J. Kuck of The Villages. All of these kickers have hit field goals over 40 yards. Moffitt and Bissell have hit 51- and 50-yarders, respectively, this season. Kuck has hit a 53-yarder prior to this season and Farkas hit a 51-yarder last season.

Most of these guys aren't just kickers, either. They punt, too.

Farkas holds the top punting average in Central Florida with 50.6 yards per punt on 20 kicks. Gilbert has a 49.6 average, Harvey 43.0, Morgan 42.6, and Sunanon 40.2.

Of all those seniors, however, Farkas is the lone player with scholarship offers and that's because he plays safety, and he's a darned good one. Farkas committed to NCAA Division I-AA Delaware two weeks ago, and the Blue Hens will use the safety/kicker/punter to their advantage, freeing up a possible scholarship for another player given his versatility. He also has a recent offer from UConn.

"For kickers," Fleming said, "the recruiting process really begins about right now."

Kuck has been solely focused on the University of Cincinnati. Moffitt has been in contact with Michigan, North Carolina, Marshall and others. "I try to call them once a week," he said. "It gets you nervous but that's how it goes with kickers."

Rasmussen has been concentrated mostly on the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania, where several Lake Highland players have ended up during the past 10 years with the contacts that LHP coach Tim Borcky has developed. "I really like it up there," Rasmussen said. "I know all the guys on the team and I just think it would be a good fit. I'm not set (on Penn) but it will come down to them and whoever starts talking to me in the future."

And as for that kicking scholarship? Well, Rasmussen isn't holding his breath.

"If it doesn't work out, hopefully my academics will get me in somewhere and then I can walk-on somewhere," he said.

As for Fleming's camps, every little bit helps, says Sunanon, who has only been kicking a football for two years.Three years ago during the Capital One Bowl week, Georgia was working out at Sunanon's Olympia High. At the same time, Sunanon, then a freshman, was practicing his goalkeeper punts on the adjacent practice field and a Georgia coach came over and handed him a football and said, "You should be kicking one of these."

He doesn't play soccer anymore.

"I just want to concentrate on this because it looks like it has more potential for me going further in life," Sunanon said. "I'm getting a lot of letters from all over. NC State and Georgia Tech are at the top right now."

A junior this past season, Sunanon has made impressive improvement from his sophomore year, culminating in his final game for this season on Friday night when he hit a career-best 46-yarder against Dr. Phillips. The only problem, those were Olympia's only points as the Titans lost to DP 52-3 in the first round of the 6A state playoffs.

Another junior in Groveland South Lake's Roberto Aquayo, who has not worked at the Fleming camps, might just be the best of them all. He too has a career best 52-yard field goal.

And coincidence or not, every kicker listed above made the state playoffs this season with exception of Aquayo and Morgan. Morgan's Lake Mary team lost to Lake Brantley for a spot in the first round, so somebody was going to be out as the losing team in that contest. Brantley's Gilbert moved on, but the Patriots lost in the first round to Winter Park.

Win or lose, however, these kickers are usually back out to Fleming's instructional camps every Sunday, 12 months a year. Fleming kicked at the University of Florida between 2001 and 2005, meaning he had the rare distinction of having been coached by all three Florida coaches during this decade: Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer.

"I had a lot of coaches telling me how to kick a lot of different ways," Fleming said.

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@orlandosentinel.com.

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