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Kickin' it new school
GSU kickers working to erase 2006
GSU KICKERS 6 col bw
Left-footed kicker Patrick Bolen watches his kick sail through the upright during fall practice. Bolen and fellow junior Jesse Hartley are vying for the starting place kicking job in 2007. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Assistant coach Jeff Koonz has given Georgia Southern’s kicking team exactly what it needed — a clean slate. Like the rest of the Eagles, they’re eager to redeem themselves from last year, a season plagued with missed kicks and close losses.
    “We are starting fresh,” said Koonz, who also coaches the defensive line. “I have a background in psychology, and we’ve deprogrammed them. They’ve all been brainwashed, and none of them remember last year.”
    That might be a good thing because GSU ranked last in the Southern Conference in field goals and point-after-attempts made in 2006. The Eagles are in need of reliable placekicker where junior Jesse Hartley currently has a slight edge over junior Patrick Bolen. The two have shared the majority of reps during fall camp.
    “Everything is going well right now,” Hartley said. “We are just trying to stay concentrated, get into game-type situations and try to make every kick count.”
    Hartley practiced with the team last year but wasn’t academically eligible to play after transferring from Tallahassee Community College where he played baseball. He completed 25 hours in six months to regain his eligibility.
    “I decided I wanted to get back into kicking, and there’s was no better school to come to than Georgia Southern,” said Hartley, adding that the competition for the starting role has been friendly.
    “We know the best man will get the job,” he said. “We root each other on and are really good friends.”
    Koonz spoke highly of Hartley, complimenting his get-off time, consistency and kick height. The coach has also been pleased with fall camp as a whole and the competition that carried over from spring practice.
    Bolen said while the Eagles will always remember last year’s 3-8 struggle, they’ve really worked to moved past it.
    “Every game last year seemed like a kick won or lost the game,” he said. “You’ve just got to put that behind you. I think everybody has let that go by. We’ve had a good offseason and camp so far. Jesse is a good kicker, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s good to have the competition because it can only help you improve.”
    Three additional kickers, including senior Bo Galvin and redshirt freshman Brett Peddicord, joined the Eagles at practice Tuesday when the team was able to expand its 90-man roster. Koonz hasn’t seen much of the newcomers or true freshman Adrian Mora, who recently got cleared to play after an injury and has only been kicking for a few days.
    At holder, senior Jayson Foster is the favorite.
    “When (defenders) see (Foster) back there, they’re always going to be worried about him doing something else with the ball,” Koonz said. “He’s really a great holder.”
    Has Koonz had a chance to see the tape of last year’s Coastal Carolina game where Foster reeled in a high snap on a field goal attempt and zigzagged into the end zone?
    “Why do you think he’s holding?” Koonz joked. “I’m not stupid. He can make something out of nothing, and there’s always a threat with him there. ”
    Senior Joey Tuttle is in line to continue his role as the starting long snapper, and senior Dan Jordan has a strong hold on punting duties. In 2006 he averaged 41 yards a kick, the third highest single-season average in school history.
    “He hit an NFL punt the other day – it went 70 yards in the air,” Koonz said. “He’s been outstanding.”
    
    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.