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GSU freshman YoungHoe Koo getting his kicks

GSU freshman YoungHoe Koo getting his kicks

GSU freshman YoungHoe Koo getting his kicks

Georgia Southern kicker YoughHoe Koo ...

    Georgia Southern went all the way to New Jersey to address what turned out to be the biggest deficiency in 2012 — the kicking game.
    YoungHoe Koo came to GSU from Ridgewood, N.J., to try to become the Eagles’ placekicker, and all eyes will be on the position after what happened a year ago.
    In 2012, the Eagles made only 8 of 22 field-goal attempts.
    They lost to The Citadel 23-21 and missed a pair of 31-yard attempts. They lost to Appalachian State 31-28, and missed three field goals, all inside 26 yards.
    The most memorable came on Dec. 14, in Fargo, N.D., in the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs when the Eagles faced North Dakota State. The team recruited GSU soccer player Drew Ruggles the week before the game. He had a 50-yard attempt blocked as time expired in a 23-20 loss.
    Enter Koo, who will be in the mix with several other kickers for the starting job; Alex Hanks and Ryan Nowicki, the team’s kickers from 2012, and redshirt freshman Conner Tierney.
    “I think it’s wide open, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to try to get that spot,” Koo said.
    Koo, a Korean-born kicker who was First-Team, All-Big North League all four years of high school, came to the United States when he was in the sixth grade and began playing football in seventh grade.
    Back then, kicking was just an afterthought.
    “I played wide receiver and corner,” Koo said. “Kicking and punting, I just did that because I played soccer my whole life.”
    Koo was coached in high school by Pat Sempier, a private kicking instructor who is well known in New Jersey. Sempier helped Koo polish up his kicking game.
    “My kicking coach taught me consistency more than anything else,” Koo said. “Kick it the same. It doesn’t matter if you are kicking an extra point or a 60-yard field goal. Your extra point should be good from 60 yards.”
    Though Koo made a name for himself as a kicker, he was also an All-League defensive back as a high school cornerback.
    It made for a lot of work. Once, Koo intercepted a pass, returned it for a touchdown, kicked the extra point, and then lined up for the kickoff which, not surprisingly, didn’t go for a touchback -- only one of three of his 50 kickoffs that was returnable during his senior season.
    “Then I had to go back on defense,” Koo said. “It was tiring, but I had a lot of fun doing it.”
    The transition to the college game has not been too difficult for Koo, who worked out at a college kicking camp the summer before his senior year and learned to kick off of grass instead of a tee.
    In fact, now that Koo is focusing only on one position, it’s actually a bit easier in some respects.
    “In high school I played corner too, so I was busy all the time,” he said. “In college I’m just kicking, so there’s a lot of standing around. That’s the life of a kicker, you know?”
    Koo is only just learning about Georgia Southern’s rich winning tradition that includes six FCS (Division I-AA) national championships and 10 Southern Conference titles.
    “I didn’t know anything about Georgia Southern until the coaches contacted me,” Koo said. “I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet. I know about the tradition here, about working hard and about the brotherhood here.”
    Koo is also starting to realize how big of an impact the program’s transition from the FCS to the Football Bowl Subdivision Sun Belt Conference could potentially have on the program.
    “I knew about it,” he said, “but I didn't actually realize how big of a deal it is until after I signed.”
    The freshman Eagles will join the rest of the team for the first time today for a 3:30 p.m., at practice.
    They will begin practice in full pads on Monday at 10 a.m.

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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