For Penn State kicker Tyler Davis, loss of snapper, holder, equals new challenge
Penn State place kicker Tyler Davis kicks during spring practice on the Lasch fields on March 29, 2017. Joe Hermitt | firstname.lastname@example.org
There is not much taken for granted in sports these days, not with the proliferation of social media GIFs and multiple near 24-hour television networks dedicated to showing just about everything about anything from football to baseball to hockey, basketball, and pretty much anything in between.
Across the board, follies are chronicles, and discussed at such lengths that it’s known what should happen almost 100 percent of the time and what might not.
The job of long snapper and holder on a football team probably still make the cut, though.
And why wouldn’t they? Both positions are mentioned in passing, usually only to be blamed when something goes wrong like a snap skipping away or a holder not properly placing the laces of the football for his kicker. It’s why the names Tyler Yazujian and Chris Gulla might be foreign to some Penn State fans.
“Yaz,” as he was called by his Nittany Lion teammates, was as reliable as they come as over his three years as Penn State’s long snapper dating back to 2014, starting over a 40-game window in which he rarely had a miscue or impacted a kick or punt in a negative way. Gulla, meanwhile, was installed as the program’s holder back in 2014 when Ryan Keiser was hurt before the Ohio State game, and save for a few games missed due to injury here and there, he, too, served for the better part of the last three seasons on the field goal and extra point units.
No wonder Tyler Davis felt so comfortable back there; No. 94, Penn State’s starting kicker for all of last year and most of 2015, knew those guys better than anyone, and more importantly, worked with them forever, in football years.
Now, they’re gone, but he’s still here, and rep after rep is needed to break in the new under-the-radar Mr. Reliables, which right now looks to be redshirt junior Kyle Vasey at snapper and backup QB Billy Fessler, a redshirt junior, at holder.
“It’s going to come down to mostly a comfort thing, getting a thousand reps with those guys, because we’ve had a pretty set group,” Davis was saying on Tuesday.
A few other players are working on long snapping, the kicker added, noting that starting punter Blake Gillikin has been trying his hand at holding, as well. Fessler probably will win out, though, as he held for Davis while Gulla was hurt last year, but the main takeaway is that, until the coaches settle on a duo in front of their kicker, the race for comfort will continue to be delayed.
It matters because, when all is said and done, comfort is maybe the biggest key of all for the kicker and the guys getting him the ball.
“I think we have a ways to go still,” Davis continued. “We really just started working in spring ball. Since spring ball started, we definitely made a lot of progress, but to get to where I was last year, we’re going to have to put in work all spring, and all summer.”
Which is step one for Davis, who was placed on scholarship for the spring 2017 semester by Franklin back in December.
Step two? Becoming a more reliable kicker from distance so that he’s called in for the long boots of 50-plus yards that were often bypassed in 2016 in favor of a punt.
“I want to make sure that they’re completely confident in me,” Davis said.
“I think I can prove that in practice a little more.”
Really, though, it all starts by proving a connection with the new guys.