Matt Ammendola came into 2017 riding a lot of hype (at least for a kicker), mostly based on who he would be replacing. Ben Grogan, OSU’s oft-maligned four-year kicker was on his way out and there was a strong segment of the fanbase that was happy to see him go — nevermind the fact that he ended his career as the school’s all-time scorer and by flexing his clutch gene.
At that point, Ammendola had kicked exactly one collegiate field goal in 2016 — a 53-yarder he nailed against Central Michigan — and spent most of the year handling kickoff duties. Unfortunately, things didn’t start off quite as rosey in Year 2.
After missing a field goal each in Weeks 1 and 2, Ammendola missed two short kicks in Lubbock that saw his head coach question him and our comment section full of calls for his benching.
But somewhat quietly, Ammendola figured things out and finished the season with a respectable 79.3 percent and on an 11-made field goal streak which is still alive.
Now, heading into his junior season, Ammendola is more confident and is benefiting from some changes in preparation after the addition of special teams analyst M.K. Taylor.
“My leg is feeling a lot better this year,” said Ammendola during Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve been spreading (my kicks) out a good bunch, which is nice. It feels nice. We’ve been changing the steps up in the process. I feel a lot more confident going into this year.”
A Competition for Kickoff Duties
After taking over full place kicking duties in 2017, Ammendola saw his touchback percentage on kickoffs drop from a pretty average 47 percent down to 34 percent (good for 83rd nationally), and based on that it appears the Cowboys will open up the KO duties to competition.
Mike Gundy would like to see the mark north of 60 percent, a number the Cowboys haven’t turned in since Quinn Sharp was teeing off back in 2012. Touchbacks mean no returns, a place where Oklahoma State got burned for at least one score in two the last three seasons.
Ammendola was asked about Gundy’s apparent inclination to move the junior off of kickoff duties to save his leg.
“I’m not going to disagree with him,” Ammendola said. “I talked to him one-on-one, and they said I totaled almost 200 kicks last year. I’m not completely out of the running for it. I want to see if I can handle it this year. We’ll see what happens.”
Behind Ammendola is Jake McClure, former three-star kicker and punter who redshirted in 2017. He could be in the mix as well as Matt Hockett who’s served in spot duty on kickoffs the last three years.
At this point, I think Mike Gundy would sign me if he thought I could put it past the end zone at a high clip.