Oh, yes, those lonesome kickers. They've been isolated and even ridiculed.
But with the surge in specialization in sports, and specialization in football, there's a certain place for the kickers, long snappers and punters of the world. Heck, there are even camps for them - as examined in today's Blade - and recruiting analysts point to the establishment of special teams camps as a catalyst for improving the recruiting profiles of those position players.
Allen Trieu, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com, said the progression of kickers being considered as top-flight recruits has come only within the last five years.
"I think the main catalyst for that is definitely the camps," Trieu said. "There are other indirect causes for that, too. The process of recruiting moves quicker now, and kickers get lumped into it. But it would be a lot harder for kickers to get noticed and to get these opportunities without [special teams] camps."
Kicking, Trieu explained, is a difficult position for college coaches to evaluate. First, it's difficult to get a kicker on campus for an informal workout. At a camp, dozens of position players work out for a staff, but a kicker (or a long snapper or a punter) will likely get lost in that shuffle.
There's a lack of position-specific coaches that FBS programs have; at Michigan, Brady Hoke oversees the punters, while at Ohio State, Urban Meyer oversees the kickers, but it's a fraction of their many responsibilities. Thus, the need for individual coaching for specialized positions.
"With the culture of college football and of football in general, even though people preach about the importance of special teams, they don't put the money into hiring specific kicking coaches for each team," said Brandon Kornblue, a Michigan graduate who oversees Kornblue Kicking, which works with kickers, punters and long snappers. "At that level, kickers aren't working with the basic fundamentals. They have to refine small things in order to improve."