Click to Enlarge

Nathanial Vakos resume and stats for the 2023 Wisconsin Badgers

Do you have a list of scholaship schools that are looking for a punter or kicker?

This is a question that I recently received from one of my campers.

Like so many, seniors are excited and nervous about the recruiting process, either hoping to realize their dreams or having to “settle” for something less.

And this is my answer…

“Every school” is looking for a good punter and kicker. The trouble is that only one has the job at any time, so “promises” get made to kids who find that they are competing with 3-5 other kids. No one is giving up their spot for you — not without a “fight”.

Prepare for that.

You will have to earn the job at every level.  However, you should get a sense from recruiters that they are seriously interested in you.  They may want you to work out for them.  That would be a good sign.  They may want to do some social media stuff with you in their jersey (that’s a good sign, too). Doubtful that anyone will have scholarship money for you right out of high school.  Most likely possibility is from a D2 school (who can offer partial-scholarships).  D1 schools cannot (only full rides).

Your best bet is to be your own best ally right now.  Research some schools (maybe a conference you know and region you like and its teams). Find out who their players were this past season.  Almost all of them use services that supply their stats.  You can see what his punting average was, or how far his KOs went. This may give you an idea if you are something better than they already have, or to them, you seem “just the same”.

Don’t fret though.  College recruiting is a weird process. All of a sudden a school will take a liking to you.  Probably someone you never expected. You may already have a couple interested in you. Talk to them.  Offer them the chance to impress you. Follow up.  Be smart. You can always say, “no”.  And “commit” doesn’t really mean what it used to mean anymore. (read below)

As I mentioned before, you want to find the right fit, as opposed to what feels “coolest”.  I was asked to walk on at Wisconsin and Illinois a million years ago. I turned them both down to go to UW-River Falls.  I wasn’t convinced that they really wanted me. That I would be the starting kicker or punter and I still wanted to play QB. That would never happen at a Big 10 school.  So I chose D3.  I couldn’t be happier with what I chose. You may find a similar path… or not.

…and that’s up to you.

Is a “commitment” an actual scholarship offer?

I know of three kids right now who are on Wisconsin’s “commit” list for kickers. Often, it’s just to stay in the running amongst other schools… just in case. Be excited by the offer (because you can parlay that into other offers), but at the end of the day, until the deal is signed, there is no deal.

Coach Farley's Hard Truth in D1 Recruiting

The kicker shown here is Nathanial Vakos. I don’t know him at all, other than I walked past him last Spring in the Badger Field House during the WFCA Clinic — and that he came to Wisconisn via the transfer-portal from Ohio University.  He’s Wisconsin’s current FG specialist and he’ll be a junior next season. He isn’t handling their kickoffs.  He’s not doing any punting.

Take a look at his stats. Take a look at his resume. He had a good season by anyone’s measure. I’m pretty sure that he’s intent on staying the starting kicker (and probably has designs on being the kickoff man, too). So how should high school recruits feel about an “offer” to Wisconsin?

Coach Fickell has a total of 25 full rides to hand out this year (D2 is less, but can commit to partials, unlike D1 — and D3 can commit to any number since there is no scholarship for football). My suggestion is to be a part of everything while the recruiting season is underway, but please keep your eyes wide-open.  Coach’s are not trying to fool you, but they are not exactly being honest either. They have a team to put together and you are either an asset to the program, or you will be forgotten.

Here are 3 Questions to answer:
1) What kind of enviroment do I like best?
2) Does this school offer the academics I’m interested in?
3) How much do you really want to play and do you have a real shot at playing?

Here’as a link to an old web article, but the truth is still pretty much the same. It’s a 5-minute read > COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECRUITING 101: THE “OFFER” GAME, HOW IT ALL WORKS