New Blood Kicking

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – On Monday morning, North Carolina's field goal unit lined up for what appeared to be an improbable 57-yard attempt. After bouncing his first attempt off the crossbar, junior walk-on Thomas Moore split the uprights on his second try.

The Barth family had the UNC placekicker position on lockdown from 2004-12, as Connor and Casey combined for a 120 field goals during their careers. Only two other players have kicked for UNC during that time frame – Jay Wooten (‘08) and Moore.

The East Chapel Hill (N.C.) High School product has connected on 8-of-13 field goal attempts over this career with a long of 46 yards. Moore gained plenty of experience in '11-12, appearing in 14 games while Casey Barth was sidelined with injuries.

Those experiences helped build confidence and prepare for his first season as UNC's starting placekicker.

"That was crucial because it allowed me at a young age to just get the jitters out," Moore said on Wednesday. "You're not used to going into the game when you're a freshman. You don't know what's going on or what to expect. But luckily I had Casey there, who even when he was injured was able to give some pointers and tips. I think that really benefitted me and hopefully will pay off in the future."

Moore converted just two of three field goal attempts with a long of 30 yards in 2012 while battling through an ankle injury. Once he got healthy in the offseason, Moore dropped 15 pounds while increasing his squat and power clean numbers to improve his power.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder spent the offseason working on his form consistency to build a repetitive swing. Instead of trying to overpower the ball, he focused more on smooth swings to maximize leg speed.

Those improvements were on display Monday. Instead of working on routine field goals from 30 or 40 yards, Fedora called for a pair of 57-yard attempts before moving back to 59 following Moore's make.

"In that situation, you focus on getting a good hit on the ball, trying to be smooth and not trying to overkick it," Moore said. "That allows you to not worry about any of the other minute details that you deal with in [shorter] field goals."

Moore's 59-yard attempt fell short of the crossbar.

The challenge kicking from that distance is determining the proper trajectory. Kick the ball too high and there's not enough power to reach the goal posts. Kick too low and Moore has to contend with Darius Lipford and his 39-inch vertical on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

"The main focus is getting great ball contact there and just making sure I follow through as high as I can to try to get the ball up so that it can carry out," Moore said.

While Moore described the 57-yard attempt as a "fun" yardage, a more realistic range for live kicks stretches out to 53 yards.

His steady play in training camp has carried over from spring practice, according to head coach Larry Fedora.

"Thomas was impressive in the spring to me, with his confidence and everything that he had," Fedora said. "He's picked up right where he left off. He's hitting the ball real well; it's coming off his foot. It's popping. And he's putting the ball through the uprights, so that's big for us right now."

Moore's improved leg strength will also be critical on kickoffs. UNC ranked 76th nationally in kickoff yardage last season at 60.35 yards per kick, while Moore kicked off 19 times for an average of 57.2 yards per attempt.

Any improvement in that statistic will go a significant way in helping UNC win the hidden yardage battle.

 

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