Field-goal duties still up in the air

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
8:50
PM PT
With UCLA's quarterback situation resolved, at least for now, attention shifted to the field-goal kickers Wednesday and coach Rick Neuheisel acknowledged he still doesn't have one picked and will probably wait until pregame warmups Saturday at Houston to make a call.

Kip Smith has been competing with Jeff Locke over the last week, with walk-0n Joe Roberts apparently out of the equation. Locke, an All-American punter who also handles kickoff duties, looked good in practice early on but faltered a bit in recent days. Smith was shaky early and has been better of late.

All involved would like to see Smith take the reins to relieve Locke of extra duty, but consistency has been an issue with him.

"I thought Kip has gotten better and is going to answer the bell and certainly Jeff Locke is proven at the other two spots," Neuheisel said. "We’ll see how it goes pregame and make a decision at that time."

The uncertainty of the field-goal kicking game brings up the question of decision making on fourth downs inside the red zone. In the past, the decision was easy with former Lou Groza award winner Kai Forbath ready to split the uprights -- send in the field-goal unit. But with unproven kickers, going for a first down becomes more tempting.

Neuheisel said he would cross that bridge at the appropriate time.

"Those are gut instinct things," he said. "I don’t think you can predetermine those things and then get there and say 'I don’t think I should'. You just make up your mind as it goes along and I’m the only one who has to sleep with that so I can handle that. It’s a decision I’ll make at the time and hopefully I’ll make the right one."

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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