Monday, August 22, 2011
Punter Jeff Locke joins kicking competition
By Peter Yoon
Jeff Locke, who led the Pac-10 in punting last season and was fourth in the nation, became UCLA's primary field-goal kicker in practice Monday, supplanting -- at least for the day -- the inconsistent Kip Simth and Joe Roberts.
Locke made three of three field-goal attempts in pre-practice drills, hitting each one right down the middle, and then made well-struck field goals of 35 and 34 yards to finish off drives in the two-minute drill at the end of practice.
"It was good to see him go in there and do it in a situation where there was a little heat on it and we’ve got to do what’s best for our football team," coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Smith, a redshirt freshman who was recruited to replace former Lou Groza award winner Kai Forbath, struggled early in camp. He has looked better of late, but he is still inconsistent. He made two of four field-goal attempts in pre-practice drills and did not get an attempt in the two-minute drill. In Saturday's scrimmage, he made field goals of 23 and 47 yards, but missed one from 30 yards and also missed an extra-point try.
Locke, a junior, averaged 41.27 yards on punts last season and also handled the kickoff duties for the Bruins. He has not kicked field goals since high school and is coming off hip flexor surgery on his non-kicking leg, but said he could handle the field-goal duties if needed.
"I think I could," he said. "Of course, it’s not the ideal situation. We’ve all talked about that. It’s going to take some game planning. I definitely can’t kick as much as I’ve kicked in the past in kickoffs and punts. It’s definitely doable, though."
The important thing, Locke said, is to have the kicker out there who is best for the team.
"It’s an open competition," he said. "Pretty much we came in today and said every position is open. Kickoff is open, punt is open, field goal is open and we’re going to put the best guy on the field that can get it done so every single position is open."