I’ll be honest, I am pretty over the constant questions of “when will Gary Patterson sign a kicker?”. The fact of the matter is, TCU Football has not one, not two, not three... but SIX place kickers on the roster right now. That’s a large portion to be taken up by a group that has yet to inspire any confidence.
So, we are going to do this position group preview a little differently than most, and work through stages instead of depth charts.
Adam Nunez. Kid is a beast. Last year, as a redshirt freshman, he averaged nearly 40 yards per punt, earning All Big 12 Honorable Mention honors, and was an Academic All Conference honoree as well. With only two touchbacks against 26 punts downed inside the 20, he was a true weapon for a team that struggled to consistently move the ball and convert third downs, and kept the Frogs’ season from being worse than it was. The average return on his kicks? Just 4.0 yards. Not. Too. Shabby.
Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, he had an 18 yard pickup against Texas Tech on a fake punt that could have changed the momentum - if... well, let’s not go there, this is the good.
Also receiving rave reviews is new long snapper Lucas Gravelle, a grad transfer from Washington State who is doing something I have rarely seen done before - getting high praise from the head football coach in August. Generally, you know you have a good long snapper when you have no idea who your long snapper is, but Gravelle has made such a positive impression with his leadership, skillset, and maturity, it’s worth knowing who he is.
Patterson said snapper Lucas Gravelle has "made the biggest difference in everything: punt team, PAT, field goal. "He's done a great job."— Garrett Podell (@garrettpodell) August 15, 2017
Welp, every kicker is back in 2017. Take that for what you will.
As a unit, TCU’s kickers were 18-25, with then sophomore Ryan Graf going 5-6 (but missing the potential game winner against Arkansas on a block) and rising senior Brandon Hatfield going just 13-19, including devastating misses against Texas Tech, Georgia, and others. Neither was supposed to be ‘the guy’ heading into 2016, but an injury, once again, to sophomore Jonathan Song, out of Fort Worth All Saints, cost him the year.
The talent is evident in this corp, the results just didn’t match the potential in 2016. But you could say that for a lot of units a season ago.
No true #1 has emerged out of fall camp, and the talk is that it’s mostly because no player has gone out and grabbed the job. Song and Cole Bunce, the kickoff specialist from a season ago, have been the two most consistent in practices, but each has missed in scrimmage conditions. Michigan transfer Andrew David was expected to compete, or at least put more pressure on the guys in front of him, but that doesn’t seem to have materialized as of yet. What has materialized is competition from a surprising source: late addition Arkansas transfer Brandon Ritchie.
Former Colleyville Cov Christian K Brandon Ritchie eligibility has been certified, Patterson said. 'He'll make the competition interesting.'— Carlos A. Mendez (@calexmendez) August 12, 2017
Ritchie didn’t play for the Hogs as a true freshman, but it took some time with the NCAA Clearing House to make sure he could actually see the field this fall. Ritchie has been a revelation in camp through the first two weeks, pushing Song and Bunce for the starting role and being the most consistent guy under pressure in his limited opportunities thus far. Though Bunce was the clear winner of the spring, Song wasn’t fully healthy and Ritchie wasn’t on campus, and it seems the coaching staff prefers to keep him as a kick-off specialist - for now. It appears Ritchie has wrested the starting job away with opening night coming quickly.
So... where does that leave us? I expect that it will be Cole Bunce kicking off and Brandon Ritchie handling field goals on September 2nd, but not November 24th. I am still hopeful that Song will live up to his incredible promise as a kicker, and that it will be realized at some point in 2017. That being said, maybe we go for it more on fourth and short?