Friday, December 6, 2013
Around the Horns: Locke fixes shaky start
By Ben Goessling
Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:
When the Vikings drafted UCLA punter Jeff Locke in the fifth round of last April's draft, ostensibly to replace Chris Kluwe, they made the move largely because of how they thought Locke could help them pin opponents deep in their own territory. Locke had a strong leg, but was also a skilled directional kicker and had learned the Aussie-style kicks favored by many punters for shorter kicks.
But Locke struggled early this season, and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer told the punter, as only he could, that Locke was "the dumbest smart guy I've ever met in my life.
"Because all he did was think," Priefer said, according to Derek Wetmore of 1500ESPN.com. "He was overthinking, overanalyzing everything and he just wasn't going out there and doing what he does. He's got a beautiful leg swing when the drop is closer to being perfect or perfect, we get what we want. And when it's not perfect, that's OK, that's football. He's just got to understand that he's going to be a more consistent punter when he approaches it that way."
Locke graduated from UCLA with a degree in economics, a 3.885 GPA and a banking internship. He helped publish a study on whether college athletes should be paid. There's no question the rookie punter is an intellectual, but that can sometimes backfire on athletes. Locke has put five punts inside the 20 in the last two games, and seems on his way to evening out his first season in the NFL. He was Priefer's handpicked punter before the draft, and the Vikings believe he can become one of the better specialists in the league, in time.