Kick­ing game needs lots of work

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Zach Helfand zach.helfand@la­times.com Twit­ter: @zhelfand

Upon one of the first men­tions of USC’s kick­ing game dur­ing train­ing camp, Clay Hel­ton let out a sigh.

“I’m thank­ing God we’ve got about three more weeks left,” the coach said.

The Tro­jans have strug­gled to re­place Matt Bo­er­meester, who won the Rose Bowl game on a 46-yard kick as time ex­pired but was un­ex­pect­edly re­moved from USC dur­ing the off­sea­son.

Sud­denly, Michael Brown was the only schol­ar­ship kicker left. USC scram­bled to boost its depth by bring­ing in Chase McGrath, a pre­ferred walk-on.

The com­pe­ti­tion, Hel­ton said, “seems to go back and forth.” Nei­ther has run away with the job.

“It’s been off and on,” Hel­ton said Wed­nes­day. “One day it’s been re­ally good. And then today there’s some balls go­ing ev­ery­where.”

Hel­ton had ex­pected the po­si­tion to lack drama this sea­son. Bo­er­meester was un­spec­tac­u­lar — his 18 made field goals in 25 at­tempts ranked USC 68th na­tion­ally in kick­ing per­cent­age. But his 18 makes fin­ished one shy of USC’s sin­gle-sea­son record. Plus, he was proven in the cru­cible of the Rose Bowl.

USC’s Ti­tle IX of­fice in­ves­ti­gated Bo­er­meester dur­ing the off­sea­son fol­low­ing an al­le­ga­tion that he as­saulted his girl­friend, ac­cord­ing to Bo­er­meester’s at­tor­ney. Bo­er­meester and his girl­friend, Zoe Katz, have de­nied the al­le­ga­tion. He was re­moved from the school fol­low­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The change was a sur­prise to Brown, a red­shirt fresh­man, but he said he’d pre­pared know­ing that “you never know when the job’s go­ing to come for­ward.”

The first two weeks of camp were shaky. Nei­ther he nor McGrath had made an at­tempt from longer than 45 yards. Brown had one 46yard at­tempt fail to make it out of the end zone. He was spotty from sev­eral other at­tempts of longer than 40 yards.

The per­for­mance was out of char­ac­ter for Brown. The Chris Sailer Kick­ing Academy, the most prodi­gious in­cu­ba­tor of young kick­ing tal­ent in the country, said Brown had “one of the strong­est legs in the na­tion” in its high school eval­u­a­tion.

“As long as I’m kick­ing from the 40 and in, that’s what I’m com­fort­able with right now,” Brown said.

Spe­cial teams coach John Bax­ter said he was less con­cerned about range than about con­sis­tency.

McGrath has also been streaky, but he made one at­tempt from about 50 yards out ear­lier this week. (He was not avail­able for com­ment. By a team pol­icy, USC’s fresh­men are not al­lowed to speak to re­porters dur­ing the start of train­ing camp.)

Bax­ter called the kick­ers “very sim­i­lar play­ers.” He didn’t rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that both could kick early on.

Hel­ton hopes one will be­gin to emerge dur­ing a scrim­mage on Satur­day, when he plans to put each one in pres­sure sit­u­a­tions.

But Bax­ter noted that eval­u­at­ing any kicker is dif­fi­cult be­fore he has played in a game that counts.

“I’ll give you a bet­ter as­sess­ment af­ter we play a game,” Bax­ter said. “Any­one can go out and prac­tice.”

Do­minic Davis di­verts to ‘D’

Do­minic Davis ex­am­ined a crowded USC back­field and de­ter­mined there wasn’t much of a place for him. So on Thurs­day, he ar­rived at prac­tice no longer wear­ing the of­fense’s red uni­forms. In­stead, he wore the whites of the de­fense.

“Dom ap­proached us and said, you know what, Coach, we’ve got a lot of tal­ent right now in the back­field,” Hel­ton said.

Davis be­lieved he could be of more ser­vice at cor­ner­back, where USC is thin­ner. Hel­ton called it “a nice move for us, to be hon­est with you.”

Davis played on both sides of the ball in high school. He said he didn’t know whether the change would be per­ma­nent.

“I’m just feel­ing it out right now,” he said. “I hope to.”

Quick hit

Hel­ton plans to run about 60 live-ac­tion plays dur­ing the team’s scrim­mage on Satur­day.

Shot­gun Spratling Los Angeles Times

MICHAEL BROWN, a red­shirt fresh­man kicker, lines up play­ers be­fore a kick­off at­tempt dur­ing USC’s prac­tice at Howard Jones Field on Wed­nes­day.

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