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Kragthorpe: Perk up, you could be one of these guys

Published September 19, 2012 3:02 pm

College football • BYU's Stephenson is on scholarship as a punter, but an injury forced him into kicking duties.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This is not about piling on and adding to the criticism these folks are receiving — not in every case, anyway. Sometimes it is just healthy for us to recognize that others have even bigger issues than we do. So I'm delivering my annual dose of perspective, the reminder that It Could Be Worse; You Could Be …

Riley Stephenson/Josh Thompson

It is hardly a stretch to say BYU and Utah State could have met in a Bowl Championship Series elimination game next month if these kickers had delivered Saturday. Instead, Stephenson's 36-yard field-goal attempt hit the left upright, failing to send BYU into overtime against Utah in a 24-21 loss. Thompson's 37-yard try was barely wide right, denying USU's upset bid in a 16-14 defeat at Wisconsin.

A recent Sports Illustrated story basically asked why anyone would want to be a kicker, and here's more evidence of the job's pressurized hazards.

Stephenson's scholarship is for punting, and he's fourth in the country with a 47.4-yard average. But because of Justin Sorensen's back injury, Stephenson added kicking duties. He was asked to make the tying attempt after Sorensen's 51-yard try was blocked, then BYU got another chance because of a penalty.

Thompson had regained his position last week after another USU kicker missed an extra point against Utah, just one of many volatile special-teams plays involving Utah schools this season.

Jon Embree

Fellow newcomer Utah remains unlikely to overwhelm the rest of the Pac-12 this season, but Colorado is in a much worse state after Embree's Buffaloes (0-3) lost 69-14 at Fresno State. That score only begins to tell the story.

Fresno State's offense, which is directed by former Ute offensive coordinator Dave Schramm, racked up 322 yards — in the first quarter. Colorado trailed 55-7 at halftime. In October, the Buffs face a three-week stretch of USC, Oregon and Stanford.

Austin Collie

The former BYU receiver keeps trying to come back from a preseason concussion after experiencing multiple problems with head injuries last season. Collie practiced part of last week but again was inactive Sunday.

He remains determined to play. Yet questions will persist about his health and, judging by the stories of Jim McMahon and other former NFL players, what will be the long-term effect of his concussions.

Among all the athletes who have played college football around here, Collie may love the game the most of anyone — too much for his own good, perhaps.

John L. Smith

Having bolted from Weber State to become Arkansas' interim coach in April, Smith is paying for his decision. A 52-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama increased the volume of suggestions that the Razorbacks need another temporary coach.

The Hogs (1-2) have gone from national championship contenders to fighting for bowl eligibility. After Saturday's defeat, the usually loquacious Smith said, "I really don't know what to say; I didn't know what to say to our team as well."

Smith is being paid $850,000 for his fill-in work. Based on his recent bankruptcy filing, he needs the money. He's earning it, in the sense of the ridicule he's receiving.

Jerry Bovee

There are two problems with rejoicing in Smith's failings: He's making former coach Bobby Petrino look good and his former Weber State assistants' ability to keep their jobs is an issue of its own.

Bovee, the Wildcats' popular athletic director, made Jody Sears the interim coach when Smith left. By the look of things in Ogden, Bovee will face a tough decision after the season about whether to retain Sears and his staff. They appear very capable, but the Wildcats have struggled with a demanding schedule of Fresno State, BYU and McNeese State.

Big Sky Conference play will not offer immediate relief. The Wildcats host powerful Eastern Washington this week, so Bovee's situation likely will become more stressful.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt