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Clay Discusses Vandy Kicker Stunt With Chad Withrow

Chad Withrow, co-host of The Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, joined Clay this morning on OutKick to discuss the stunt former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason pulled by inserting Sarah Fuller into the game as a kicker.

Clay: “In the NFL, they don’t have big rosters, right? You look on the sideline, college football teams can have 20, 30, 40 guys who are never going to play that are on the sideline for games, dressed out. And so it’s usual that there’s a kicker, and there’s a backup kicker. There’s probably a punter, and there’s a backup punter. All those things are normal. In the NFL, it’s fairly common that, let’s say, your kicker strains a quad and isn’t able to continue, and the punter might have to do it. It’s probably every season or — every season this happens a couple of times. The punter hurts himself, and somebody else has to come in and punt, usually the kicker or whatnot. So, when I saw this whole ‘Vanderbilt needs a kicker’ story start to emerge, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. And then, like a lot of people, I watched on Saturday, because I was like, ‘Well, I want to see. Is she actually gonna attempt field goals? Is she gonna attempt extra points?’ It’s an intriguing story for this Vanderbilt-Missouri game. And as I’m watching, they keep trotting out the punter, who actually was probably Vanderbilt’s best player on the field on Saturday, and he punted seven times in a row for an average of 43 yards. And so, as I’m watching, I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute, it’s a lot tougher to punt than it is to kick off in a game.’

“So, this story that Vanderbilt didn’t have a kicker doesn’t make sense to me, because the punter could have clearly run up and popped the ball up in the air and kicked the ball a lot further than she did. This is not rocket science.”

Chad: “Well, Clay, I know that you see this a lot. It seems that common sense goes out the window in how people react to stories. And there are so many media members nationally and locally here in Nashville, where I’m located, in the media that wanted so badly for this to be this sort of ‘Arthur Ashe Courage Award moment’ with Sarah Fuller, that they’re not asking the obvious questions. I have nothing against Sarah Fuller. I think it’s a cool story that she went out there and she became the first woman to play a Power Five game for a Power Five school. I think that part of it’s cool. I don’t think it’s great. And I don’t think the story is great.

And I think you’re hitting on a few things. Harrison Smith is the punter at Vanderbilt, averaged 43 yards per punt, had a long of 53. Now I’ve done some digging on this because I’m interested in it. He is not a good kicker. I talked to someone that was associated with him at Brentwood Academy, south of Nashville where he played. Not a good kicker. He can dropkick. So, he can actually punt the ball off the ground and does it pretty well. Now I asked this person, ‘Could he go out there and squib kick it to the 37 the way Sarah Fuller did?’ And they said, ‘Absolutely.’ They could have asked him to do that, and he probably could have gone out and attempted extra points as well.

“Vanderbilt also has a reserve defensive back, and the SEC Network broadcast team mentioned this, but they have a reserve defensive back that’s a sophomore that kicked all through high school for his high school team that was available, also. You can also go for two. So, this whole narrative that they had to bring her on, that they were forced to do it, they had to do it, this was the only option. I know for a fact that the former NBA kicker, a prestigious private school in Nashville, who was a good kicker reached out to Vanderbilt coaches. He’s a student at Vanderbilt and he’s offering up his services to go kick. And they basically — there was no competition. There was no real try-out. They shut it down. And then Sarah Fuller was tweeting out, you know, pictures of her in uniform, and Vanderbilt was hyping it up also. So, look, I think two things can be true. It’s a cool story that she had an opportunity to do this. It’s cool to see her go out there and kick in a game. And it’s also clearly a publicity stunt. But by whoever it was that decided this was going to be a thing, I’m not sure who, I just don’t buy that this was your only option. If you want to argue the way Vanderbilt coaches were today that, ‘Well, she gave us the best option to win.’ I don’t necessarily buy that. I also think that it’s quite the extreme when you think of other options they could have had to go out and kick in this game.”

Written by Michael Shamburger

Michael has 11+ years covering golf and college football. He's walked alongside Tiger, bleeds Purple and Gold, and is thankful for Joe Burrow! DBAP

6 Comments

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  1. The Vanderbilt kicker saga is the culmination of the Participation Trophy Culture. Besides the punter, there were several guys on the Vanderbilt club soccer team that could have kicked off. I guess Mason knew he was getting fired, and he wanted to look like Mr. Progressive to ensure someone will give him an assistant job in the future.

  2. If their punter averaged 43 yards, that means the ball traveled 58 yards (punting measurement is from the line of scrimmage not where the punter stands). Given that he is able to kick the ball 58 yards with from 2 steps, there is no doubt he has the leg strength to kick it farther. This was a publicity stunt that demonstrated Vandy isn’t serious about football. However, Mason will probably end up with a sweet ESPN gig.

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