- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Placekicker is such a critical role on any team. To that end, ACC fans should be thrilled that there is little turnover among the starting kickers in the league this year.
As it stands today, only three teams will have new faces kicking field goals when the season opens. That ties the ACC with the Pac-12 and Big Ten for the smallest turnover ratio among the automatic qualifying conferences.
Virginia is the only school that remains undecided on a starter. Special teams coach Anthony Poindexter said earlier this week he hopes to soon make a decision between Drew Jarrett and Ian Frye to take over for the graduated Robert Randolph.
Duke and Georgia Tech are the only other teams with new kickers for this year. The Blue Devils will start freshman Ross Martin, while Georgia Tech is going with David Scully, who handled kickoff duties last season.
As for the returning kickers, the top five statistical leaders from a year ago return. Four of them made the Lou Groza Award preseason watch list -- Dustin Hopkins at Florida State; Chandler Catanzaro at Clemson; Jake Wieclaw at Miami; and Jimmy Newman at Wake Forest.
Cody Journell, who led all ACC kickers last year with an .824 field goal percentage, is back at Virginia Tech after serving a seven-month suspension following his arrest on breaking and entering charges last December. He pleaded guilty to reduced charges in May and was reinstated in July.
As for those on the Groza list, Hopkins clearly leads the way. Hopkins was a finalist for the award last year, and needs 68 points to become the conference’s all-time leading scorer. Given the 110 points he scored last year, it is reasonable to expect him to close in on the record around Week 8.