The list is nearly too long to recite, but in many ways, 2011 was "the season of the kicker" in college football, both in terms of the big kicks made and for the number of devastating misses (sorry, Boise State).
It was on full display for the Sun Devils in 2011, continuing the bi-polar personality that the placekicker position has taken on a for Arizona State over the last five years.
As a freshman in 2007, Thomas Weber was nearly automatic, connecting on 24 of his 25 field goals en route to the Lou Groza Award. However, he was never the same, as he struggled mightily with consistency over his last three seasons, making just 71% of his field goals and missed five extra points.
Last season, redshirt freshman Alex Garoutte took over the placekicking duties, and immediately the skittish fan base was given concern. Garoutte struggled mightily with his field goals during fall camp, and visions of Weber's recent inconsistencies flashed before fans eyes.
He allayed many of those fears in the opener as he made both field goal attempts, including one from 49 yards. He then struggled, missing three of his next four, including two under 35 yards. Bouncing back, he made his next six kicks during the middle of the season, peaking with a two-for-two performance against Colorado.
Then his season, like ASU's, fell apart.
In the season's defining game, the 29-28 loss to UCLA, Garoutte missed all three of his attempts, including two crushing fourth quarter misses. The next week, a missed 21 yarder was a critical factor in ASU's loss, and was immediately public enemy No. 1 to many fans.
Finishing his rollercoaster year, he made his last four kicks, but the damage was already done.
Now with a year of experience under his foot, Garoutte looks to put his dreadful debut season behind him, and he has the tools to do so. Garoutte displayed that he has a powerful leg and has range that can hit from 50 yards out.
However, more than his accuracy, it may be his confidence that needs the biggest work during spring practice. Placekicking is a very stressful job on a football team, and not only must Garoutte earn back the confidence of his teammates, fans and a new coaching staff, he must also prove it to himself.
That process starts on March 13th when spring practices open. With three other kickers on the roster and a new coaching staff, he is the clear frontrunner, but that is a status that can change after a handful of wide rights or lefts.
This is a critical time on the young man's career and one of the key story lines of spring practice. Sun Devil fans are hoping his redemption efforts go straight through the uprights, but like last year, they may be watching initially with their hands over their face.
Check out our other spring primers: The WR Battle
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