Florida State has an extremly interesting relationship with its kickers.
Nationally, football fans are quick to recount Wide Right, or any of the variations on that theme which has cost Florida State football games (and national titles) in the past.
But amongst the fanbase the talk is much more favorable. Guys like Sebastian Janikowski and Graham Gano are Groza award winners and amongst the most well-regarded of former Seminoles. Recently Dustin Hopkins, the all-time leading scorer amongst NCAA Division I kickers has joined that group.
In Hopkins place this season is Robert Aguayo, a redshirt freshman with a big leg and a big personality who is more than ready to make his own name.
"I like the transition in, I have to fill the number one spot so I’m willing to take that over," said Aguayo. "I’m doing good in Spring ball right now. I keep everything the same, the difference is Dustin’s gone but I still practice exactly the same as I did in the fall."
Both Hopkins and Aguayo are out-going, well-spoken guys with big personalities. There are similarities, but also plenty of differences.
"Dustin and me kind of have the same personality, I wouldn’t say I’m more outgoing because Dustin was outgoing too but I like to joke around a lot, laugh a lot, I don’t take stuff seriously, you never see me mad and stuff, you always see me smiling," said Aguayo. "Growing up a lot of people were always like 'oh you’re always laughing, you’re always smiling, nothing ever gets to you.' And that’s how the mindset of a kicker has to be. You miss a kick, ‘oh well, you missed it,’ you can’t do anything, just learn what you did and move on and that’s how I carry myself.”
But whereas Hopkins was the walking definition of humility, Aguayo radiates confidence. Don't believe it?Just get him going about his range.
“My farthest was a 68 last Fall in practice, but that was with the wind at my back, I hit the ball good," said Aguayo. "I’d say 55-60 yards, maybe on a good day with the wind at my back 63. But anything under 55 I can hit it.”
Aguayo's partner in crime, punter Cason Beatty is developing confidence after a freshman year that saw its share of highs and lows.
“It was a good year to start, I think I had ups and downs of course but my main focus after the Maryland game- where I struggled with two or three punts- was just to finish strong," said Beatty, who is entering his sophomore year. "I went into the Florida game and I hit a few good balls, I know one got returned but it was just a good hit, and I finished the ACC championship game really well and I finished the bowl game really well with five inside the 20. So I'm just coming through the end of my freshman year on a high just coming into Spring ball knowing that I know I struggled a little bit and it was just good learning.”
Beatty relied on another former FSU kicker for guidance after he struggled against Maryland at the end of the season. He reached out to former Florida State (and current Buffalo Bills) punter Shawn Powell.
“When I first committed up here the day I worked out he was on the field with me, so he happened to be out there and from then we hit it off so I did reach out to him after the Maryland game just to talk to him, just to get another perspective," said Beatty. "He just told me to calm down and just take care of everything because you’re there for a reason. They wouldn’t have you there if they didn’t want you.”
Now Beatty is preparing for his sophomore season with a year's worth of lessons under his belt and the confidence that comes with having gained that experience.
So far new Special Teams coordinator Charles Kelly and the two kickers have formed a good working relationship too.
“I feel like we’ve been working with each other for a few years already," said Beatty. "We’re very comfortable with each other, he knows how I’m going to punt every time, he knows when I do one small thing wrong and he can say one word and I’ll fix on my next punt and hit it well.”
Kelly and Beatty will still need to work to shore up some issues with protection on punts, but Beatty feels his best kicks are ahead of him. Now it's just a matter of smoothing everything out.
“I’m not going to put it on my blockers at all, we’re a team, we’re all together. We got those punts blocked as a unit," said Beatty.
“I just want to hit the ball well and get a good net out of it and let my guys cover, I’m looking for a fair catch and anything over 40.”
Beatty will continue to utilize his Aussie punt to try and pin teams inside the 20. Neither him nor Kelly prefer directional punting, especially when they trust the gunners will be able to down the ball if the hang-time is there.
As long as the blocking holds, Beatty is very good at burying teams deep. He should have plenty of chances to do just that in 2013.
Meanwhile Aguayo is just trying to make the most of practice and save his leg for the games.
"You try to minimize the reps because you’re going to get tired, plus you know what you’re doing," said Aguayo. "You’re trying to save yourself for the games.
"It’s quality reps, not quantity.”
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