Land of 10 has embarked on a series of “Next Generation” articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the class of 2017 signees. Land of 10 Ohio State writers Ben Axelrod and Ryan Ginn are visiting the Ohio State incoming freshman class to show you more than 40-yard dash times and recruiting rankings. Each week, Land of 10 will introduce the Ohio State fan base to one of the new Buckeyes. Up this week is 3-star K Blake Haubeil.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ohio State’s next great kicking prospect looks like he was designed in a special-teams lab.
Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 225 pounds, Buffalo Canisius kicker Blake Haubeil looks more like a wideout than a specialist. (Most active NFL kickers are listed in the range of 5-foot-10 t0 6-foot-1 and none are taller than 6-foot-3). His long limbs make 50-yard field goals look easy. Furthermore, he’s the son of two former athletes. His father, Rik, was a soccer captain in high school and his mother, Brooke, played tennis at Edinboro University .
It takes more than raw athletic ability to succeed at the highest levels of college football, however.
Haubeil has the physical attributes necessary for kicking stardom, but his mental approach may be even more crucial. He speaks often of how much fun he has playing a position that comes with relentless pressure. At a position where the mental aspect weighs so heavily and self-doubt can creep in, Haubeil has no such issues.
“I think my mindset is what separates me from most people,” he said.
Those close to him know not to discuss a miss with him shortly after it happens, but Brooke Haubeil said it’s because he’s processing the error instead of simmering over it. Blake said he learned over time that the biggest danger is not missing a kick but instead not being able to correct that mistake. When he does sail a kick wide, he goes into deep thought about what he can do to fix it going forward.
“It’s not how many you miss or make, it’s how many you know what went wrong if you miss,” he said. “When you know what went wrong you can fix it. If you’re making everything and all of a sudden you miss and don’t know what went wrong, what’s to prevent you from doing that again? The education and learning process is just as important as the actual act of kicking.”
He’s just as calm before a kick as he is after one. His routine, thoughts and outward expression look no different for a 50-yarder than an extra point. When he made a 61-yard kick as a junior — yes, 61 yards — everyone involved said there were no nerves beforehand.
“He has an amazing ability to keep calm,” Brooke Haubeil said, “and that keeps other people calm.”
He still had to prove it to Ohio State, however. Haubeil sent the Buckeyes tape after his sophomore season. Fortuitously, his cousin graduated from Ohio University in May 2015 and the Haubeil family spent a day at Ohio State during the drive from Buffalo to Athens, Ohio.
Haubeil returned for a one-day camp in June, where he kicked privately in front of the Ohio State coaches. Head coach Urban Meyer and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs — who also handles the specialists — worked to put Haubeil out of his comfort zone.
“Coach Coombs is brutal,” Haubeil said. “Coach Meyer is bad in terms of the pressure you feel. Coach Coombs was screaming at me and I put it through. Then he starts tossing stuff at me, little rolled up balls of tape and things like that.
“One time I missed one when he was screaming right next to me. He goes, ‘Oh, was that me? Was that me?’ I told him I knew what I did wrong. I ducked my arm and crunched and that’s why it went left. He said, ‘We’ll see, we’ll see.’ We backed it up to the 50 and I put it right down the middle. That was big in terms of proving to myself and to the coaches that I could adjust.”
Shaking off those playful distractions earned Haubeil a trip to Meyer’s office, where he was offered a scholarship. Meyer wanted him to talk it over with his mother, who didn’t go on that trip, but Haubeil was already feeling the pull of the Buckeyes.
His mind was made up by the time he came back to Columbus for the Friday Night Lights recruiting camp in July 2015. Kicking under Ohio Stadium lights in front of thousands of Buckeyes fans, Haubeil made attempt after attempt. Those successful kicks once again came in the midst of attempted intimidation and distractions.
“When you’re trying to prove yourself in front of coach Meyer, that’s huge,” Haubeil said. “He was standing next to me and they were saying some things. Some players standing around me were telling me I was going to miss. I think it was Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Braxton Miller and some other guys. All the specialists were on me. It was definitely a pressure-filled situation to say the least. I was just trying to keep my head in it. That was probably the biggest kick I’ve ever had.”
That night, he committed to Ohio State.
Haubeil’s 61-yard kick draws the eyeballs, but that’s not what stood out to Ohio State. (In fact, he’d already committed to the Buckeyes by the time he drilled it in his junior season.) Because of Meyer’s faith in his offense, Ohio State rarely attempts kicks from 50 or more yards. Over the last three seasons, just 18 of Ohio State’s 57 field-goal attempts have come from 40 yards or longer. Meyer hasn’t ordered a 50-yard attempt since 2012, when Drew Basil missed from 50 against Purdue and hit from 52 against Michigan.
As such, Haubeil’s booming distance is more a luxury than a necessity. It’s his accuracy, focus and poise that have made him the No. 2 kicker nationally — according to the 247 Sports composite rankings and Kohl’s Kicking — and a great fit for the Ohio State coaches.
“Even then, back in June 2015, the one thing coach Meyer said was, ‘You’re probably never going to kick a 60-yard field goal here, unless it’s a 1-second-on-the-clock type of thing. You want to impress me? Kick a 37-yard field goal from the right hash at Happy Valley with a million fans in your face screaming every name in the book at you,'” Rik Haubeil said.
“It puts things in perspective. Ohio State wants guys who can make those kicks and make them often. The ones that matter are the ones you don’t want to miss. Anything super long is icing on the cake. At Ohio State, it’s all touchdowns anyways. So when you need to kick a field goal, make that field goal.”
That’s been a problem at times for the Buckeyes, who have used four different kickers for field goals over the last four seasons.
The last two years have been particularly stressful for Ohio State fans. Class of 2014 signee Sean Nuernberger has looked quite capable at times, but he got beat out by walk-on Jack Willoughby as a returning starter in 2015 and wasn’t healthy enough in 2016 to be a factor. Ohio State went from Nov. 1, 2014, to Oct. 15, 2016, without making a field goal of more than 40 yards — a stretch in which the Buckeyes missed six field-goal attempts of 40-plus.
Haubeil has never formally attempted a last-minute, game-winning field goal because the one time he lined up for one — in the final game of his high school career, no less — the opposing team jumped offside. With 17 seconds left and a fresh set of downs, Canisius threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the ensuing play to win the New York Class AAA state title.
Arguably the most impressive and important kick of his high school career came one game earlier, and it embodied exactly what Meyer wants. Playing in New Era Field (home of the Buffalo Bills), Haubeil lined up for a 47-yard kick with his team up 7-6 right before halftime. It was a cold, windy night and the NFL uprights are nearly 5 yards narrower than high school goalposts.
He booted it through to give the Crusaders a 10-6 lead and later called it the biggest kick of his high school career. Given everything it entailed, Canisius special teams coach Bryce Hopkins agreed.
“To make a 47-yarder from the right hash into narrower NFL posts, especially in New Era Field, where the wind conditions are bad, those are some pretty challenging conditions by themselves,” he said. “It was right before halftime and it was a kick that gave us the lead. Stylistically, it was textbook. He had great depth, he had great timing, his swing on it was perfect and it split the uprights. When the team needs him to make a kick, everyone has confidence in him and he has confidence in himself. That was such a great moment for him.”
Ohio State fans should expect plenty more in the years to come.
Blake Haubeil breakdown
|247 composite position ranking (K)||No. 2|
|Kohl’s Kickers position ranking (K)||No. 2|
|Commitment date||July 24, 2015|
Kohl’s Kicking scouting report: “Haubeil is a very talented FG Kicker. The lift on his FG’s is college ready right now. He has competed at multiple Kohl’s events in 2016 and shown he is a trustworthy kicker. He has been ahead of his age ever since he came to his first Kohl’s camp and won the Eastern Showcase as a sophomore. In May of 2016 he made 9 of 10 FG in the charting phase of camp and was dominant in the drill work and competition phase. His FG range was 5-10 yards longer than everyone else at that camp. Haubeil does need to continue to work on transferring his energy better on KO’s but there is no reason to believe he can’t go into Ohio State as a freshman and compete on FG.”
Canisius special teams coach Bryce Hopkins: “Blake’s strength is that he gets great height on his kicks by the time it clears the line of scrimmage. Even his 60-yard kicks are easily clearing the height where they could be blocked. I don’t think Ohio State will have to worry very much about blocks when Blake is kicking. It’s such an underrated part of kicking, and his kicking height is pro-esque.”