USC kicker strong, needs to improve accuracy

Irmo native Scribner-Howard in battle for role of kickoff specialist

03/30/2010 12:00 AM

07/02/2010 7:42 AM

If South Carolina kicker Joey Scribner-Howard were a pro golfer, he would be John Daly - a guy who can blast the ball off the tee but often has to walk to the next fairway (or practice field) to retrieve it.

"Like a lot of people's golf swings, it's a big swing, but a lot of times you don't know where it's going," USC special teams coach Shane Beamer said of Scribner-Howard.

"His leg's plenty strong enough. He just has to keep it in check and realize that 80 percent of his leg is better than a lot of guys' 100 (percent)."

Scribner-Howard can handle the math: The Dutch Fork graduate transferred from Carson-Newman last year in part because the Division II school in Tennessee did not offer an engineering major.

He interned last summer at a Winnsboro biofuel company that converts waste vegetable oil into diesel. Scribner-Howard's project this spring is harnessing the power in his right leg and using it to help a Gamecocks kickoff coverage team that ranked last in the SEC last season.

While Spencer Lanning returns as USC's starting punter and place-kicker, Scribner-Howard is competing with North Carolina transfer Jay Wooten and Adam Yates for kickoff duties. Yates handled most kickoffs last season.

"Spencer Lanning used the word 'sick' to describe Joey's leg, and there's something to that. He's got a strong leg," Beamer said. "Again, it's just being consistent and kicking the ball with distance and hang time and all the things we're looking for."

The Gamecocks had one touchback on 59 kickoffs in 2009 and allowed three to be returned for touchdowns. USC has used spring practice to try to improve its coverage, although deciding on a dependable kickoff specialist would help.

Beamer said Scribner-Howard's leg strength was apparent when he walked on to the team last year. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder made 1-of-2 field goals and was 30-of-36 on extra points in two seasons at Carson-Newman.

Scribner-Howard played soccer on a club team coached by USC's Mark Berson and was being recruited by several schools as a goalie. But a shoulder injury before his senior season hurt his chances at a soccer scholarship.

"I said, 'Well, I'm just going to have to stick with football and give it all I have with that,'" Scribner-Howard said. "Soccer was my passion, my love growing up. But I like doing football, too."

Scribner-Howard, who grew up in Greenwood, is friends with Gamecocks soccer player Luke Berson, the coach's son. But Scribner-Howard said he never has considered playing the sport at USC.

"I wouldn't be able to swing that," he said. "It's just too much time, and I doubt I'd be able to even hang with those guys."

His goal is to win the kickoff job, back up Lanning on extra points and field goals and earn a scholarship. Scribner-Howard also has to find time to study for his engineering courses.

"It's tough, but I'm trying to hang with it," he said. "That doesn't mean to say I'm super smart or anything. But it's a heck of a challenge."

Scribner-Howard's challenge on the practice field will be to keep crushing the ball off the tee - and if he happens to boot it out of play, make sure it's through the end zone.

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