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Top kickers struggling so far

10/5/2011

Ross Krautman and Dave Teggart went into the season as the top two kickers in the Big East. But so far, both have had some early season struggles.

Teggart, who made the all-conference first team last season at UConn, has made just 6 of his 10 field goal attempts this season -- a 60 percent success rate. Krautman, who made the all-conference second team at Syracuse, has made 6 of his 9 field goal attempts -- with a long of just 33.

Both have had critical misses in games that could have helped determine the outcome. Teggart missed two against Iowa State, from 41 and 43 yards, and UConn lost 24-20. Krautman missed a 39-yarder and had a 44-yarder blocked in a 19-16 double-overtime loss to Rutgers last week. An extra-point attempt also was blocked.

Consider Krautman missed just one of his 19 attempts last season. Coach Doug Marrone said a reason for his struggles against Rutgers was because of problems along the line, and specifically with right guard Andrew Tiller. Zack Chibane is now being moved to the right side.

"We'll switch the two interior linemen, and what we're going to do is probably interlock the tight end so that he had one movement instead of two," Marrone said. "That will help our wing, and then we're going to decrease our time by 0.01 seconds. That's exactly what went on."

Teggart did miss six kicks last year, but he came up clutch with game winners against West Virginia and USF.

So who is the top kicker in the conference so far?

None other than Tyler Bitancurt of West Virginia. The same Tyler Bitancurt who had massive struggles last season. Bitancurt has missed just one of his 10 attempts this season and already has made a career-long tying 45-yarder, better than his 2010 best of 43 yards. His 90 percent success rate leads the Big East.

This is the same player who had no field goals in the final four games of last season -- going 0-for-4 in those games. He struggled during the spring, and went into the fall competing with Corey Smith for the kicking job. Something clicked for him in the fall, and Bitancurt was named the starter after a week.

He says he is playing with a renewed sense of confidence, and now he also has picked up kickoff duties after Smith struggled in the first four games.

With the heart of conference play approaching, we will see how this position plays out.