COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Blake Haubeil was being recruited to Ohio State, the 2018 season was supposed to mark a year of transition at kicker.
Instead, an unexpected redshirt season from Sean Nuernberger in 2016 means Haubeil, the No. 2 kicker in the Class of 2017, could have to wait another year to get his shot at the field-goal job. Nuernberger started for Ohio State as a true freshman in 2014 but lost the job to walk-on transfer Jack Willoughby in 2015. He missed the 2016 campaign because of injuries but kept a year of eligibility in the process.
The Buckeyes will have two scholarship kickers on the roster for the second year in a row, and it sounds like they’re poised to keep their same roles as last season, when Nuernberger handled field goals and Haubeil was a kickoff specialist.
“At this point in time, in terms of field goals, Sean’s been taking all the reps,” long snapper Liam McCullough said during Wednesday’s post-practice interviews. (Neither kicker was available for interviews during the specialists slot because of classes.) “Blake’s been focusing more on kickoffs, kind of like last year. There hasn’t been any talk so far of a battle or a competition. Sean, he’s the guy right now. It’s his fifth year and he’s got the experience.”
That’s understandable given that 2017 was Nuernberger’s most accurate season yet. He made 17 of 21 field goals and set a Big Ten record for consecutive extra points made. It’s worth noting, however, that Ohio State’s recent distance problems continued in 2017. The Buckeyes didn’t convert a field goal longer than 40 yards in 2015 and made just 1 that eclipsed 40 yards in 2016, when Tyler Durbin made a 45-yarder. Nuernberger made just 1 of 4 attempts from 40 or more yards in 2017, knocking in a 44-yarder against Michigan but missing from 43 against Michigan and Wisconsin. An attempt from 47 yards was also blocked against Maryland.
Ohio State field goals 2017
Special teams frustrations boiled over after the Maryland game, when Ohio State committed an unfathomable amount of mistakes in that area — including a 29-yard miss from Nuernberger in addition to the blocked kick.
“A young freshman (offensive lineman) gave up a little blocked field goal,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “And then a veteran kicker, I’m still befuddled with. We’re the only team in the country that can’t kick the ball down the field. It’s something I have to strongly evaluate and find out why.”
Nuernberger steadied himself, making his next 7 kicks and 10 of his final 12. For now, that appears to have been enough to hold onto the job for his final season at Ohio State.