Buckeyes' Nugent tops short kickers list

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Draft preview: Buckeyes' Nugent tops short kickers list
April 7, 2005
By Clark Judge
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer

Sometimes there are a handful of draft-eligible kickers who excite pro scouts. Sometimes there are only a couple. This year there is one.

Mike Nugent, come on down.

The Ohio State senior is the only kicker or punter who looms as a first-day draft pick, with some scouts insisting he could sneak into the second round. More than likely, he goes in the third -- the same place San Diego took Nate Kaeding a year ago -- and to a club like, say, Washington or the New York Jets.

Either would make sense. The Commanders lost three games by a field goal last year. They win those, and they're in the playoffs. The Jets lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC playoffs when Doug Brien blew field goals late in the fourth quarter and in overtime. If he makes just one, they're one win from the Super Bowl.

I think you get the point. With nearly 25 percent of all NFL games today decided by three or fewer points, you can't afford to miss on your kicker -- and choosing Mike Nugent is not exactly what you'd call a risk.

The envelope, please:

*He hit 24 of 27 field goals last season and 65 of 74 the past three.
*He nailed a school-record 17 at home without a miss.
*He landed a 55-yarder.
*He set 19 school records.
*He was the team captain. Think about that: A placekicker was the captain of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

"Mike Nugent is the closest thing to a slam-dunk that I've seen in quite awhile," said one NFC special teams coordinator. "He can step right in tomorrow and be your kicker."

NFL scouts like Nugent's consistency, but they love his ability to make the clutch kick. He hit an overtime field goal to beat Purdue in 2003. His 55-yarder last season knocked off Marshall. He nailed all three field-goal attempts, including a 48-yarder, in last year's 37-21 upset of archrival Michigan and tied a school record with five field goals against North Carolina State.

"This guy's the real deal," said an AFC assistant. "If he doesn't make it I'd be shocked."

He isn't alone. Nugent's teammates thought so much of the guy they voted him their MVP last season -- the first time in school history that happened. Then, others followed, with Nugent chosen as the winner of last year's Groza Award, given annually to the nation's best collegiate kicker. He became the first Ohio State kicker to win.

At the February NFL scouting combine Nugent said his goal was to be the first kicker drafted. Consider that one done, too.

"This guy is a very, very good kicker," said one AFC assistant. "He's extremely accurate, and his ball tracks straight. Plus, he makes big kicks."

If there's a knock on Nugent it's his leg strength. I know, I know, he tied a school record with five 50-yarders, and he banged that 55-yarder against Marshall, but scouts were disappointed with the distance of his kickoffs at the combine. None reached the end zone, and, remember, it's not only the yard line and tee that change in the NFL for kickoffs; it's the ball itself.

"There's a little bit of a difference," said an unconcerned Nugent. "But after two or three times on the field and kicking it everything's back to normal."

OK, so we're nitpicking here. When you play at Ohio State and make nearly 88 percent of your field goals -- including 5-for-6 from 50 yards and beyond -- you have a future in the pros. Besides, if it's kickoffs that are the problem, go find a Martin Gramatica or Wade Richey to put the ball into orbit, and leave the rest to Nugent.

Believe me, somebody will.

"If I needed a kicker, this is the guy I'd take -- and I might not wait until the third round," said an NFC assistant.

Neither would I.


The Dog that Saved Charleston
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If we had a 3rd round pick and he was still on the board, he'd be a Cowboy in my book. Everyone underestimates how much yardage a good kicker can net you in a ballgame and also how many extra points they can score for you in a season.