As a field goal kicker, junior Jeff Babcock had an impressive year in 2002. He set a new Colorado State season record with 24 field goals and scored 118 points, the second highest total in school history. He earned second team all-Mountain West Conference honors and was sixth nationally in field goals per game.
He converted five field goals (including a 46-yarder) in the opening game against Virginia, tying a school record. He even recovered a fumble against Air Force and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Babcock is also one of 30 preseason nominees for the Lou Groza Award presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding.
Now, Babcock faces a new challenge. Instead of just handling the place kicking duties, he will also be taking on punting responsibilities. He has trained extensively to be ready for his new role.
“This summer I kicked a lot more than I ever had before and I spent a lot of time on punting,” Babcock said.
Freshman Jim Kaylor has also been training for the punting position, but Babcock appears to be the leading man.
“At this point I am the punter, but that could change at any time,” Babcock said. “I’ve had good days and bad days. If I hit a good ball every time then they look like Joey Huber’s did last year, but sometimes they don’t. At this point I would like to punt all year. If Jim becomes the better man then I will shake his hand and it won’t be something I lose sleep over.”
Head coach Sonny Lubick believes that Babcock’s experience as a kicker in the league for two years gives him the advantage out on the field.
“He is very good and I have a lot of confidence in him,” Lubick said. “He has been with us for three years, so he is experienced and confident. There is not much substitute for a guy who has been under the fire.”
Babcock does have big shoes to fill with 2002 punter Joey Huber graduated. Huber averaged 40.3 yards per punt last year and his longest boot was an impressive 72-yard punt. He is now a punter with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL.
In addition to his new kicking job, Babcock has also been working on improving his field goal kicking.
“I’d love to have a better percentage,” Babcock said. “I had a lot of field goals last year, but I also had a lot of attempts. I hope the offense pulls through and I won’t have to kick as many.”
Last year against Colorado, Babcock missed key kicks that could have prevented the game from being so close. He will look to remedy that on Saturday.
“One of my worst games was last year against CU,” Babcock said. “It is a huge rivalry. It has become a huge part of my life and I want to succeed at it. I have not stopped thinking about this game since the final whistle blew last year and I have been looking forward to going back to Mile High.”