While the touchdowns have been few, Carey Spear hasn’t wasted his plentiful opportunities.
Vanderbilt’s junior kicker shares the Southeastern Conference lead with eight made field goals out of 10 attempts.
Of course his success means shortcomings in other areas, such as red-zone efficiency. Heading into Saturday’s game at Missouri, the Commodores rank 102nd in the country by scoring on only 66.7 percent of their trips (10-of-15) inside the 20-yard line. Only four of those drives have ended in touchdowns — all against Football Championship Subdivision foe Presbyterian.
While this has been a problem for a sputtering offense, Spear is not about to turn down a chance to kick.
“I’ll take my points when we can help the offense out,” he said after practice on Wednesday.
Inconsistency cost Spear his starting job midway through last season. It appeared he would start the season as the backup when Ryan Fowler was listed as the starter on the depth chart for the season opener against South Carolina.
Instead, Spear got the nod and nailed 2-of-3 field goals.
“It was a competition all the way up to the first game,” he said.
Spear has held onto his job thanks to a consistent right leg.
He made six straight field goals until a miss from 46 yards away at Georgia two weeks ago. In fact, his only two misses have been over 45 yards. His 51-yard attempt against the Gamecocks in the first game fell a few yards short.
Failure to clear the uprights in key moments last year — a game-tying field goal against Arkansas and two misses at Alabama — has aided Spear this year. During spring workouts and preseason camp, the coaching staff pestered Spear and Fowler during kicks by yelling, whispering in their ears and throwing water at them.
Shaking off the pressure, though, has provided the biggest boost for Spear, a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Ohio. Instead of tensing up, he’s cherishing his time college and as a SEC kicker; fearful of looking back and regretting that four years got away from him.
“I’m approaching it in a different way,” Spear said. “I’m using last year’s experiences help me mature, help me grow; prepare not only physically but mentally for kicking in the SEC. I think it’s very important. I’ve learned a lot in the offseason on the mental side of things. I’m just having fun and refusing to be complacent.”
And refusing to turn down chances.
“You earn your points in the SEC,” he said. “So you want to get those every time you go out there.”
• QB update: Jordan Rodgers was listed atop the depth chart on Monday and coach James Franklin said if he had a good week of practice, Rodgers would be his starter against Missouri.
When asked on Wednesday if this was the case so far, Franklin said, “So far so good.” He gave the same response when asked if he had reached a conclusion on his starting quarterback.
Neither Rodgers or Austyn Carta-Samuels, who has made one start this season, were made available to the media. It has been four weeks since a quarterback available for an interview.
He did joke with one reporter before addressing the media about making a different pair of quarterbacks available: walk-on Luke Colbert and John Townsley, a former walk-on who made his collegiate debut against Presbyterian.
• Stacy’s carries: Senior running back Zac Stacy is averaging just 11.5 carries a game. When he touches the ball, though, he makes the most of it. He’s averaging 7.4 yards a carry, which is second in the SEC behind Georgia’s Todd Gurley (7.9). Franklin said the plan in the last three games was to go “2-for-1” with Stacy and junior Wesley Tate. Stacy goes in for two straight drives, then Tate for one and so on. Stacy, who broke the school’s single-season rushing record last year, has 46 rushes for 341 yards and a touchdown. Tate has picked up 47 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
This week Franklin plans to tag specific plays to specific players, but said he wants Stacy’s touches to go up.
“Besides that [plan], let Zac stay in until he needs to come out,” Franklin said. “I’d like more opportunities for him and I’d like us to play well on offense, defense and special teams so we can stick to our game plan and not have to change the plan. ... We’d love to be able to establish that if we can.”