Two years ago, Carey Spear struggled to keep his job as Vanderbilt’s starting kicker.
Last year, he held tight to the role by kicking a school-record 20 field goals.
The 2013 season is still a month away but the senior is already has been pegged as one to watch.
Wednesday, Spear was one of 30 players named to the watch list for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award. Spear joins Auburn’s Cody Parkey as the only Southeastern Conference players on the list for the national award.
Spear, a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Mayfield Village, Ohio, didn’t miss often in 2012. He was 20-of-24 on field goal attempts and converted all 27 extra points. He was 14-of-14 on field goals inside 43 yards. His career-long 52-yarder against Wake Forest last year was the first 50-plus yard field goal by a Vanderbilt kicker since Bryant Hahnfeldt in 2006.
Spear showed great improvement from his sophomore season in 2011 in which he made 4-of-7 and lost his starting job after the eighth game. He missed a pair against Alabama and missed a game-tying 27-yarder against Arkansas at the end of regulation.
• SEC Media Days: Also on Wednesday, the SEC announced players each school will bring to SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., next week.
A trio of seniors will represent Vanderbilt. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews, cornerback Andre Hal and left tackle and Wesley Johnson will join coach James Franklin on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel.
Matthews set the school record with 1,323 receiving yards last year along with 94 receptions and eight touchdowns. Hal ranked second in the SEC last year with 16 passes defended, including two interceptions. Johnson has started all 38 games of his career at four different positions on the offensive line. The Montgomery Bell Academy product did not allow a sack last year.
Tennessee will take left tackle and Pearl-Cohn grad Antonio Richardson, left tackle Ja’Wuan James and defensive lineman Jacques Smith.