UK special teams: Mansour gets long-awaited leg up in kicking game

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 23, 2013 

  • SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS

    This is the last in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position.

    The main man: It took awhile for it to reveal itself in fall camp, but junior Demarco Robinson has been named the probable punt returner for the Cats, and he's one of four players who could handle kick return duties as well. Undersized, but speedy, coaches think he could be dangerous at that spot. His senior year of high school, the 5-foot-10, 158-pounder returned a punt and a kickoff for scores. In his 18 punt returns last season, he averaged just 6.5 yards. He took his one kickoff return 20 yards. "He's got the quicks and if we can get him to the next level, he's got a chance to go," special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto said of Robinson.

    The supporting cast: The coaches have a lot of faith in senior kicker Joe Mansour, who mostly has handled kickoff duties previously, and punter Landon Foster was the most productive freshman punter in school history last season (42.9 yards per punt) and has continued to improve. Kelly Mason will handle long-snapping duties and Jared Leet will remain holder. Kickoff return duties have been narrowed to four players: Robinson as well as junior-college transfer Javess Blue and true freshmen Ryan Timmons and Jeff Badet.

    Outlook: This group returns starters at every position except placekicker, and it sounds like Mansour has done more than enough to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates. Coaches are looking to get true production from returners for the first time since Randall Cobb was wearing Kentucky across his chest. It was then (in 2010) that UK last scored a touchdown off a punt return. Not since 2009 when Derrick Locke returned a kickoff for a touchdown have the Cats scored in that way.

    Jennifer Smith

  • Season opener

    Aug. 31: vs. Western Kentucky at Nashville, 7 p.m.

    Home opener

    Sept. 7: vs. Miami (Ohio), noon

It no longer matters what the former staff said.

It's no longer important that Joe Mansour was called "inconsistent" or "all over the place."

The new coaching staff wasn't there to hear those things said about Kentucky's senior kicker.

But more importantly, they haven't seen that from Mansour, a former high school All-American who had high hopes of becoming the Cats' place-kicker and kickoff guy for all four of his seasons.

For reasons noted above, the shy kid with the big leg was relegated to kickoff duties by the former coaches.

The new UK staff, led by special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto, has bigger plans for Mansour.

"In my eyes, he's been the kicker all along," Peveto said Friday of Mansour. "It's his job to lose. I want to make sure we all understand that. Joe's always been our kicker. Period."

When those words were relayed to Mansour, the senior smiled.

"That means a lot," he said. "It means a lot because I went through some tough times the past three years, especially those first two years. My freshman year, I had pretty high expectations for myself and it didn't go as planned."

When the former LaGrange High School kicker who was named to Georgia's "All-Decade Team" got to Kentucky, he aimed to be more than a kickoff guy.

After all, he had made six field goals of more than 50 yards in his high school career, including a 59-yarder. This staff believes he can be more than a kickoff specialist.

Two 50-plus yarders hit by the senior have convinced them.

In two scrimmages, the team was running two-minute drills.

"We were out of time, had to hit one," Peveto explained. "We couldn't throw a pass. We were out of timeouts."

Both times Mansour nailed a 52-yarder.

"With the pressure on, everybody watching him, he's hit two over 50," Coach Mark Stoops said Friday. "I like that."

Hitting those two gave Mansour a confidence boost.

"In those situations, I felt good," he said. "I felt like my team was behind me and my coaches were behind me. It definitely put some pressure on me that I need to get ready for this season. ... I feel like I'm getting better every day and I just want to keep getting better."

The new staff has him believing that he can.

"They have definitely given me the confidence I need to be a good kicker," he continued. "They're doing a great job with me. They know attacking my mental stability is not really the way to go with me. ... They're making me believe in myself."

Mansour didn't miss a field goal in the spring. He had "a slump earlier in camp where he had a bad couple of days," but came out of it and has impressed, Peveto said.

The Kentucky special teams coach has had plenty of experience with top kickers. When he was special teams coordinator at Louisiana State in 2007, both his punter (Patrick Fisher) and his placekicker (Colt David) earned first-team All-SEC honors.

True freshman Austin MacGinnis, ranked as one of the three best kickers in the nation by two recruiting services, has been challenging Mansour since he arrived on campus.

But Peveto still likes what Mansour has shown.

Mansour is happy to have the fresh beginning.

"His energy and the way he communicated with the special teams players, I knew it was going to be a different year, a different coaching staff," he said of Peveto. "It was going to be a new start for me and that's what I needed."


This is the last in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position.

Season Opener

Aug. 31: vs. Western Kentucky at Nashville, 7 p.m.

Home opener

Sept. 7: vs. Miami (Ohio), noon

SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS

The main man: It took awhile for it to reveal itself in fall camp, but junior Demarco Robinson has been named the probable punt returner for the Cats, and he's one of four players who could handle kick return duties as well. Undersized, but speedy, coaches think he could be dangerous at that spot. His senior year of high school, the 5-foot-10, 158-pounder returned a punt and a kickoff for scores. In his 18 punt returns last season, he averaged just 6.5 yards. He took his one kickoff return 20 yards. "He's got the quicks and if we can get him to the next level, he's got a chance to go," special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto said of Robinson.

The supporting cast: The coaches have a lot of faith in senior kicker Joe Mansour, who mostly has handled kickoff duties previously, and punter Landon Foster was the most productive freshman punter in school history last season (42.9 yards per punt) and has continued to improve. Kelly Mason will handle long-snapping duties and Jared Leet will remain holder. Kickoff return duties have been narrowed to four players: Robinson as well as junior-college transfer Javess Blue and true freshmen Ryan Timmons and Jeff Badet.

Outlook: This group returns starters at every position except placekicker, and it sounds like Mansour has done more than enough to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates. Coaches are looking to get true production from returners for the first time since Randall Cobb was wearing Kentucky across his chest. It was then (in 2010) that UK last scored a touchdown off a punt return. Not since 2009 when Derrick Locke returned a kickoff for a touchdown have the Cats scored in that way.

Jennifer Smith

SCOUTING THE CATS

Quarterbacks: Start or not, Jalen Whitlow figures to be part of plan

Running backs: Raymond Sanders standing out in deep backfield

Receivers:Alex Montgomery has a flair for the dramatic

Tight ends: Anthony Kendrick might be a hidden gem

Offensive line: New offense forces linemen to get up to speed

Defensive line: Finally at end, Dupree justifies the means

Linebacker: Avery Williamson setting an example on and off the field

Secondary: Depth and size are areas of concern

Special teams: Joe Mansour gets leg up in kicking game



» Roster | Schedule

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service