Anyone that has built a puzzle knows that absolutely every piece is needed in order for it to work. Without all of the pieces, a puzzle can never fully be complete. In the same way, Oregon football has been impressive the last several years, but there was always something missing — a kicker. And without a quality kicker, the Oregon National Championship puzzle could never fully be put together.
Unfortunately, the kicker is often neglected. The main reason Oregon fans pay attention to the position nowadays is even more unfortunate; inefficient kicking helped keep the Ducks out of National Championship contention in 2011 and 2012. So after two consecutive years of heartbreak brought about by one or two missed kicks, the former head coach, Chip Kelly, finally went out and recruited a highly skilled kicker from the other side of the country.
Oregon kicker Matt Wogan is entering his sophomore season for the Ducks and is looking to complete the puzzle. Wogan, his brother and his sister were born to parents Ronald and Lori Wogan in North Carolina. He was raised as an athlete, competing heavily in soccer, but was eventually persuaded to switch to football so that he could release his aggression on a pigskin rather than on opposing eight-grade goalies.
It’s a common stereotype that all great football kickers were once soccer players, and that holds true here. Wogan immediately transferred his kicking skills to the gridiron and was named Porter Ridge High School’s starting kicker/punter in only his freshman year.
By his sophomore season Wogan was all-state, and by his junior year the Pirates were on their way to a state championship. But it was in his senior year that Wogan showed off his kicking and punting prowess – he averaged almost 44 yards per punt with a long of 72, all the while placing 19 inside the 20-yard line.
He also connected on 11-of-16 field goals with five being from 50-plus. On kickoffs, Wogan booted 85-of-95 into the end zone. If you’re wondering, these are phenomenal feats for a high school kicker.
Wogan’s senior year performance, and his help in taking the Pirates to another state championship, was enough to rank him as the No. 2 kicker/punter in the country. But scouts knew that Wogan was more than a kicker. His high school coach, Blair Hardin, stated in an InsideCarolina article that: “He’s the reason why we’ve had success there — on kickoffs, on punting, if we need a long field goal. He’s just such a dynamic weapon [and] we’re really blessed to have him — we really are.” You can bet that Hardin wasn’t the only coach to realize Wogan’s potential.
In 2012, Wogan participated in a kicking camp in Oregon where he dominated all comers. After nailing a 60-yarder to win the final contest, Kelly extended a scholarship offer to the young stud, and he accepted shortly after.
Of course, though, there was already a starting kicker at Oregon. The much-maligned Alejandro Maldonado was entering his senior season as Wogan began his freshman campaign. Wogan started the season manning kickoffs and splitting placement kick duties, but as many expected, he eventually won the starting position outright.
According to OregonLive.com, Head Coach Mark Helfrich said that it came down to “nothing more, nothing less, than we think he gives us the best chance to make a kick.” Ergo, Maldonado was out, and Wogan was in.
But what fans didn’t expect is how much the Oregon kicking position has been upgraded. Wogan connected on 42-of-44 PATs and 7-of-9 field goals, including a long of 38 yards, while one of the two misses was from 43.
To further add to his leg’s resume, Wogan landed more than 20 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone. The Duck season didn’t end necessarily as planned, but no longer would they have to hold their breath during important field goal attempts.
In the future, if you’re looking to finish a puzzle, make sure all the pieces are there. Now that Wogan, Oregon’s third-leading scorer, is in place, Oregon’s National Championship puzzle pieces are all there.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline