Options Available at PK

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – One position that has seen a healthy competition this August is placekicker, where senior Thomas Moore, sophomore Nick Weiler and true freshman Freeman Jones represent a trio of options for North Carolina.

Much like the quarterback situation, the coaching staff has not given an edge – publicly, at least - to any of the players as game prep for Liberty began on Wednesday.

““I wouldn’t say anybody has really separated themselves,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said.

Moore is the most experienced of the trio. The Charlotte, N.C. native started his first full season in 2013 after working in spot duty behind Casey Barth in 2011-12.

Moore connected on 14-of-19 field goals and 46-of-48 extra points last season. He missed four of his five attempts of 40 yards or more – his season high was 40 yards – which highlights a crucial area of improvement for this position group.

Weiler’s strong leg and corresponding distance earned him kick off duties last year and as an option in long field goal situations. The Fairfax Station, Va. native, who walked on in 2012, had 67 kickoffs for 4,214 yards (with a 62.9 yards per kick average) and 19 touchbacks in 2013.

Jones appears to be UNC’s third option at this point, although his high school resume includes a selection to the U.S. Army All-America all-star game, which speaks to his potential.

“I think together we’ve pushed each other nicely,” Moore said. “We’ve been charting a lot, and that’s really helped us get better. Just individually, that’s up to the coaches.”

Weiler suggested that the kickers’ only job is to compete with each other and help make the group as a whole better.

“Experience helps with everything,” Moore said. “You know what to expect and how to manage your leg throughout camp. Younger guys come in and try and kick as many balls as they can the first day and end up with a sore leg.”

Weiler agreed, and discussed how he has had to work through nagging physical ailments throughout his career, but with Moore’s help, he’s attempted to avoid such injuries this camp.

“This is my third camp, and my first camp I tried to kick as many balls as I could, and it really screwed my leg over,” Weiler said. “Last season, I did the same thing, and I had a nagging injury throughout the year. This year, Tom and I have really focused on slowing back the reps and focusing one kick at a time to stay really healthy and strong.”

Moore’s offseason work centered on distance and timing.

“I thought it was more about focusing on the farther kicks,” Moore said. “ I was pretty good inside last year. The place where I could prove was beyond the 40. It was (also) about keeping the ball on line. I missed a few right last year - I was kind of striding too hard, getting to the ball too fast. So working on maintaining my composure during a kick, as far as the pace I go to the ball and how I approach it.”

Weiler, on the other hand, worked on his accuracy during the offseason.

“My focus was to become extremely consistent on the accuracy,” Weiler said. “Power was there last season, I just needed to work on being more accurate.”

Neither Weiler nor Moore were biting when asked about the leader in the clubhouse for placekicker and kickoff duties.

“It’s up to the coaches,” Weiler said. “Thomas and I have been competing, and Freeman has a strong leg, so we’ll see.”


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