Quick, name all three Georgia Southern players who have been starting since 2008.
Here’s a hint — one has been the team’s leading scorer in each of the last three years, one has been an All-Southern Conference selection three times and the third has been involved in each play in which the first two have participated.
It’s the kicking unit.
Together, place kicker Adrian Mora, punter Charlie Edwards and long snapper Carter Jones have seen a lot of action, changed coaches and jersey numbers at least a few times and, after Mora and Edwards were both named to the 2008 SoCon All-Freshman team, have managed to improve their statistics in each season since.
“There are very few plays over the course of a game that change as much field position as a kicking play,” said GSU coach Jeff Monken. “They’re very important plays and we take a lot of pride in it. … Whoever wins the kicking game has got a really good chance to win a football game.”
Mora won the starting job in week four of the 2008 season after two years of inconsistency for GSU on field goals and extra points, and has since become the picture of composure.
In 95 career extra-point attempts, Mora has never missed. After going 19 of 21 in field goals in 2010, his career total in that department improved to 45 of 55.
His 95 career extra points puts Mora 56 behind Tim Foley (151, 1984-87), and last season, due to the fact he’s never missed, Mora shattered the previous GSU record for consecutive makes (67, Reed Haley, 1992-94).
Mora has 230 career points at Georgia Southern, and should he come close to matching last season’s total of 102, he would move into fifth-place all-time in scoring behind only Adrian Peterson (524), Chaz Williams (374), Jayson Foster (372) and Gerald Harris (340). He needs 67 points to pass Foley, the fifth all-time scorer at GSU, and 64 points to pass Greg Hill.
“We don’t really like to look ahead,” Mora said. “We don’t really like to think about streaks. We just go out there and focus on the next kick.”
Ever since GSU faced Georgia on Aug 30, 2008, Edwards has booted each of the Eagles’ 165 punts, and his 40.2 yards-per-punt career average has him trailing Don Norton (40.8, 1990-91) for the all-time GSU record. With 15 punts in 2011, Edwards will pass Dan Jordan (179, 2004-07) for the highest-career total.
Whenever Edwards pins one inside the 5-yard line, he can’t help but credit the gunners – speed guys like Laron Scott and Lavelle Westbrooks - for getting down the field in a hurry.
“The football is an odd-shaped ball, and you can’t control how it’s going to bounce,” Edwards said. “Obviously if I’m inside the 50, I’m not trying to kick it as hard as I can. They just get down there so fast that if I get it up in the air for more than four seconds, they’re going to be down there ready to [down] it.”
Both Edwards and Mora are preseason, All-SoCon selections, and both agree they couldn’t have accomplished what they have without Jones, the long snapper for every game since 2008 kicked off.
“We just try to make each other look good as much as we can,” Jones said, “and we try to help the team out. That’s all we’re really here to do.”
Kickers often have a certain reputation for alienating themselves from the “real football players,” but that’s just not the case at GSU.
“Those guys are leaders,” said John Scott, defensive line/special teams coach. “They take what they do very seriously. You work on things, you become consistent and you become good. That’s what those guys do every day.”
GSU Practice Update
Defensive back Michael Butler suffered a sprained ankle Monday at practice and is expected to rest for up to three weeks.
The Eagles practiced their first two-a-day Tuesday, and will have their first day off of fall camp today before returning to Beautiful Eagle Creek on Thursday.
Quotable: 'Punting the ball inside the five — for me — that’s like throwing a touchdown pass or running it in from 20 yards out. A lot of people on the team think I’m crazy when I get so excited, but I don’t get a chance to score points or put the ball through the uprights, so if I can get it inside the five, I know the defense will [have a chance] for a safety, and it happened a couple of times last year.'
— Senior GSU punter Charlie Edwards
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.