2014 was a marvelous season. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman, the Ducks won the Rose Bowl and played in the national championship game, and we saw the emergence of true freshman stud Royce Freeman at running back. Many great things happened last year, but the development of another true freshman went largely unnoticed.
Aidan Schneider was a stud last year. Who? He’s the Oregon kicker, if you didn’t know. The Ducks’ kicker is mostly irrelevant, unless he is missing kicks (we won’t get too much into Alejandro Maldonado, I promise). We go for two-point conversions and go for it on fourth down, so why does the kicker even matter? Well, sometimes you need those three points. We did in 2011 against USC and in 2012 against Stanford, both losses coming by three points and ending with Maldonado misses.
Those days are long behind us. Maldonado has graduated and many people have forgotten about the kicker position, but Schneider might make us remember it again, for a good reason. As a true freshman, the Portland native hit 11/12 field goals, including 2/2 on kicks 40-49 yards. In contrast, Maldonado hit just 2/5 kicks from that distance as a freshman, and never made one from longer than 40 yards again in his career. These stats are not to bash on Maldonado, but rather to show the skill and potential of Schneider.
Our freshman kicker hit 91.7% of his kicks in 2014, which is certainly something to build on moving forward. Oregon has lacked continuity at kicker since Maldonado, even last year until Schneider took the job over from Matt Wogan. The 2015 season will certainly hinge more on the play of the new starting quarterback, whoever that may be, more so than the play of the kicker. In fact, Oregon hasn’t made a field goal to win a game since 2005 against Washington State, when the Ducks won 34-31.
Schneider hasn’t needed to make a kick with the game on the line yet, so how he performs in the clutch situations is still uncertain. But, if a game does comes down to a field goal, Schneider’s numbers last year should give us confidence in our kicker once again.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline