Utah football: Sakoda's shoes not easy to fill

Published August 12, 2009 7:41 pm
But senior kicker Ben Vroman says he is up to the challenge.
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Kickers are known to live in their own little world; some even would go so far as to characterize them as aloof players who not only are often out of touch with the rest of the football team, but out of touch with reality too.

Not so with Utah senior Ben Vroman. He is well aware of the heightened awareness surrounding former Utah kicker Louie Sakoda and the unusual pressure that comes with replacing a king in an often overlooked position.

"I know expectations are high," he said. "Here, it's like everyone is saying 'Whoa, what's going to happen?' "

What is going to happen, at least in Vroman's mind, is he'll win the spot over newcomer Nick Marsh and reign over the position as well as Sakoda did.

"I'm ready," he said. "I've been here five years and I have good competition from the younger guys, but I think I can take off where [Sakoda] left off."

Even though he has been with the Utes the last four years, Vroman hasn't attempted a field goal or a PAT in a game. Vroman, who was granted a medical redshirt for the 2005 season after participating in just one game, isn't worried his lack of experience will hurt him. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was clear he wasn't happy with the kicking in spring practice, but Vroman said those issues have been worked out since then.

"We worked a lot with the snap and hold and stayed after and watched a lot of film," he said. "I got stronger, too; that helped."

Also helping is the presence of Sakoda, who has signed on to work with the kickers and punters as a student assistant after he failed to make the roster of an NFL team. His presence could add pressure to some, but Vroman said it's all positive for him.

"Having him around is no different than the past, other than having to call him coach, and he said I didn't have to do that," Vroman said. "I'm doing what he says and trying to follow in his footsteps. I'm glad he's here helping us."

Like Sakoda, a unanimous consensus All-American, Vroman said he has spent a lot of time working on the mental aspect of kicking by studying golf books and working on mental preparation. If he is called upon to kick a game-winning field goal like Sakoda did against Air Force in 2006 and Oregon State in 2008, Vroman said he'll be ready.

"I put myself in that situation every day," he said.

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Camp corner

What we learned » Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the offense, while still behind the defense, is ahead of where the offense was at this point going into 2008, even without a designated starting quarterback.

Who was hot » Redshirt freshman Ryan Lacy, who was moved from receiver to defensive back two days ago, is making a good transition and is a "natural" on the defense, Whittingham said.

Who was sidelined » The Utes continue to be healthy in camp and got two players back from injuries as offensive lineman Zane Beadles (groin pull) and punter Sean Sellwood (hip flexor strain) returned to practice.

The replacements

Placekicker » Skyline High grad Ben Vroman is thought to be the front-runner to replace Louie Sakoda as placekicker. He has handled kickoffs for the Utes the last three seasons. Newcomer Nick Marsh, the 2009 Chris Sailer Kicking National Punting Champion, is competing with Vroman for the placekicking duties. He is also listed as the backup at punter.

Punter » Redshirt freshman Sean Sellwood, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound graduate of Judge Memorial, replaces Sakoda as punter. Sakoda said Sellwood has the skills to be better than he was.



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