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August 25, 2010
Watch closely and you'll see some subtle differences in Notre Dame's kicking game.
And that's part of the reason why the kicker's job remains unsettled.
Head coach Brian Kelly noted as much during his Tuesday press conference when he revealed that David Ruffer and Nick Tausch continue to battle for the starting kicker's job with pre-season practices now entering their third week.
Kelly said picking a starting place kicker could be one of his most critical decisions as the season opener approaches.
"I think we've got two good ones there," Kelly said. "One has a stronger leg than the other and the other one set a mark I think last year. Tausch, 14 in a row. Ruffer's got a cannon for a leg. Maybe that's the critical position."
In theory Tausch would have a leg up on landing the job after a strong freshman campaign.
The Plano, Texas, native went 14-of-17 on field goals and 27-of-30 on extra points while setting a program record by converting 14 straight field goal attempts after missing his first. Tausch's season ended with a couple misses and a foot injury that cost him the final three games.
Enter Ruffer, the one-time interhall kicker, who converted all five of his attempts in Tausch's absence. He also recorded a couple touchbacks in kickoff duties during the season while Tausch had zero.
"It's gonna be a battle until pre-game warm-up for the first game," said special teams coordinator Mike Elston. "They each take reps with the ones and twos. We have a pretty extensive kicking game with the PAT/field goal and the different things we do there and also with the kickoff specialists, so it'll be decided by coach Kelly probably in pre-game warm-up."
Elston said both players have a powerful leg but each has struggled with consistency during camp as a result of some changes in the kicking operation.
Like a lot of things under Kelly, things have been sped up; there are also new protections to deal with and the holder has been moved up in the formation. As a result, the kickers have had to change their approach and it's led to some of that inconsistency.
"We run a different scheme on field goals so they have to be a lot quicker, a lot faster," Elston said. "The operation time needs to be much faster. So their steps have changed ... They're trying to improve in that and that has led to a little bit of inconsistency because I'm pressing them to be much faster."
That's the kind of difference Notre Dame fans will notice.