August 8, 2007

Kickoffs more important than ever

Jared Parker said he was listed at No. 1 for kickoff duties on Saturday. Of course, he knew that could change following the next practice. Or the next one. Four kickers continue to battle in training camp for the starting job. With the new kickoff rule instituted by the NCAA, the spotlight on the Kansas State kicking game continues to gain attention perhaps like never before.

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound Parker, a junior whose touch on kickoffs paid off for the Wildcats last season, hardly shies from the glare that recently has accommodated the position. The kickoff has now become a usual topic of discussion by Coach Ron Prince.

"It's great. Kickers love it when they get attention, especially when it's positive," Parker said last weekend at the team's media day event. "Right now, it's all positive. There's a lot of speculation right now about which kicker is going to have the leg to get it down there."

Under NCAA rules, the kickoff will now take place at the 30-yard line, or five yards back from where the ball was placed at the 35 in previous seasons. That five-yard difference could prove to make the kickoff one of the most exciting plays in college football again.

"Am I comfortable with the kicking game? No," said Prince, who spent a wealth of time discussing the potential impact of the new kickoff rule during the Big 12 Media Days in San Antonio in late July.

"I'm not going to be comfortable with the kicking game until I know who the kicker is," Prince said, "and I mean that as much from a kickoff standpoint as I do from an extra-point or field-goal standpoint."

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