- Bill Conley
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WHITEWATER, Wisc. -- It was nine years ago that former Iowa State kicker Jamie Kohl held his first camp for kicking specialists. Since that time, Kohl Professional Camps have emerged as one of the best training and competitive football venues in the country for place kickers, punters and long snappers at the high school, collegiate and pro levels. To Kohl's best estimate, at least 300 former camp participants are currently playing college or pro football; a huge success story for this nine-year kicking camp experience.
After nearly 90 events since January, Jamie Kohl and staff brought the very best high school kicking talent to the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater campus for the season finale National Invitational Scholarship Camp on Saturday. The facilities are tremendous, with plenty of field space and 14 sets of goal posts to give the kickers and punters plenty of chances to be charted, observed and evaluated.
The first session started off with the place kickers being charted on field goal accuracy and distance from various hashmarks. Kickers' leg strength was also evaluated by having each camper display their kickoff talents; fairly strong winds made the competition interesting. Punters were charted and evaluated on hang time and distance. Long snappers were analyzed according to speed and accuracy for both punt and field goal snaps. Each specialist will be charted up to 25 times per session prior to the final competition.
Some of the most highly touted high school specialists were impressive early in the opening session:
It's easy to see why many coaches and kicking gurus think senior Mike Sadler (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Northern) is the best left-footed punter in the country. The football absolutely exploded off his foot from the off set. He tallied punts of 61, 56 and 55 yards with 4.74, 4.80 and 4.87 seconds of hang time respectively. Sadler has already drawn offers from schools such as Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, LSU and Arizona State. Sadler has been attending Kohl Camps for four years and it's the third time he has been invited to the national competition.
USC commit Mike Darr (Bakersfield, Calif./Frontier) had a very solid first session even though he didn't show the same consistency punting as Sadler. His best punt of the day, however, was exceptional with a soaring 47 yards in distance and an amazing 4.96 hang time. There's no doubt, however, that this California shotput and discus champion has a bright future with the Trojans. At 6-foot-2, he gets a lot of leverage into the football and his 46.2-yard average last season impressed Pete Carroll enough to make Darr an offer in early May and less than a month later, Darr jumped on board.
The biggest surprise of the opening punt session was Steve Clark (Kansas City, Mo./Park Hill). This 6-6, 230-pound tight end, defensive end and punter averaged close to 49 yards per punt and just over 4.6 seconds of hang time in the early stages of competition. He doesn't have any offers yet, but he is attracting a lot of attention with his powerful leg.
Under Armour All-Star place kicker Cody Parkey (Jupiter, Fla.) was as good as advertised in the opening day. Parkey, who committed to Auburn last November, was perfect on extra points and 5-of-7 on field goals in 2008, with his longest being 55 yards. Parkey also has the power to consistently put the football into the end zone on kickoffs.
Commenting on his being selected to the Under Armour All-America Game, Parkey said: "I'm honored to be selected to play against the very best talent in the country and to have the opportunity to perform on national television."
Bill Conley covers football recruiting for ESPN.com.
Several of the country's top specialists were on display during the first day of the National Invitational Scholarship Camp