Aug 242005
 
Authors: Nick Piburn

The right leg behind CSU's football team is gone after three years of service: Jeff Babcock's punting and placekicking cleats need to be filled.

This year there will be two legs managing the kicking duties.

Filling the role of placekicker will be senior Kevin Mark, who has handled the kickoff duties for the Rams the past two seasons, but has yet to attempt a field goal or extra point during a game. Still, Mark brings the type of senior leadership the coaches like, especially when replacing a three-year starter.

"(Mark) is not new to the program, this is Kevin's fifth year" said special teams coach Dave Arnold. "He has been our kickoff guy the past two seasons so he's played in a bowl game and he's been in the big stadium. Now he's got to kick it through the posts."

After waiting in the wings since Babcock begun starting in 2002, Mark is as prepared as he can be.

"Being around here for four years already, it's nice to get this opportunity," Mark said. "I've had the confidence to do this job for a while, hopefully I can do as good a job as I've prepared myself to do."

While Mark has played in several big games, new sophomore punter Jim Kaylor is the complete opposite.

Kaylor has a total of four punts in his career, though the four punts did average a very solid 43 yards. Kaylor had an impressive prep career at Northglenn High School, including starting at quarterback and being a three-sport athlete. But he has yet to have the chance to prove his ability in college.

"Jim is a great athlete, he was a high school quarterback so you know he has the ability," Arnold said. "There is gonna be nervousness there for the first game, but that's like any other position. I have a lot of confidence in Jim."

As Kaylor described it, the punting job was his to lose coming into this season. That initial decision shows the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in handing the job over to him, despite being a sophomore. Kaylor also understands, though, that he has something to prove.

"I feel confident I can do a good job," Kaylor said. "(Babcock) was very consistent with his punting, but I think I can do as good of a job as him."

While the kicking game seems to have the coaching staff's confidence, one aspect of special teams remains a concern.

Last year the Rams punt return team averaged an abysmal 4.8 yards per return. This year has to be better for the Rams to be successful.

"If there is one thing we have to improve on, its punt return," Arnold said. "4.8 is not acceptable, we have to get better."

Senior wide receiver Dave Anderson, junior Dustin Osborn and sophomores Damon Morton and Johnny Walker are all receiving reps at the return job.

There also are a number of players working in at kick return, which also had a sub-par year last season, averaging less than 20 yards per return. In addition to the players getting reps at punt return, the potential kick returners are junior defensive back Robert Herbert and sophomore wide receiver George Hill. Starters at each position will be determined next week

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