Nate Reed becomes a special team leader

Joe Harrington

There are a lot of players on the Kent State football team that bring confidence to the Flashes. There’s senior quarterback Julian Edelman, who started every game but three since 2006. There’s junior Eugene Jarvis, who is one of the most consistent running backs in the nation, let alone the Mid-American Conference.

Finally there’s junior Nate Reed.

What? Nate Reed? The kicker who couldn’t hit a broad side of a barn in 2006. The guy who in 2006 was 1-of-4 for field goals and split time with fellow freshman Reid Macko (who is not on the 2008 Kent State roster)?

That’s right, that Nate Reed. In 2007, Reed was 18-of-24 on the season. He was 9-of-11 from 20-29 yards and was 4-of-5 from 30-39 and had a Kent State record 52-yarder against Central Michigan.

Simply put: The man became a weapon.

But it wasn’t something that just happened over night. Reed started the season slow, missing several extra points and some kicks that would be considered automatic by most coaching standards.

Then came the Ohio game, when Reed kicked himself to the forefront of the offense. The Pittsburgh native, who watches tape of Jeff Reed of his hometown Steelers, hit 4-of-5 field goals. It matched the Kent State record for field goals in a game, and it hadn’t been done since 1970.

Even though the season didn’t end the way Reed would have liked – missing a field goal with 1:54 in the fourth quarter that would have beaten Buffalo – the kicker has entered spring ball with a lot riding on his foot.

“He is a great source of confidence, for not only me, but for the rest of the players,” Kent State coach Doug Martin said. ” They (the offense) know that if they get in the redzone, they’re going to get points.”

During Wednesday’s practice, Reed gave six good examples of what his coach was talking about, going 6-of-6, including several that were 30 or more yards. And that was a typical day for Reed, who for the first time in at least three seasons will start spring and end spring as the for-sure starting kicker for the Flashes. Although Martin wouldn’t admit that the kicking competition is closed, it has to be ending, considering Martin isn’t nearly as worried about missing extra points as he was last season.

“I feel confident that Nate can kick a field goal from just about anywhere,” Martin said. “The thing I told Nate that he needs to take another step on now is making those game winning, critical field goals.”

Reed’s spring success may be the product of a long offseason filled of game tape.

“The film is the best thing any kicker could ask for, you get to see everything you do,” Reed said. “Kicking is like golf, there’s so much in technique. You do one thing wrong that makes or breaks your kick.”

Although Reed headlines a special teams unit that should be improved from 2007, he loses one of the best long-snappers in the MAC, Matt Mueller, whose eligibility expired last season. Mueller was mister consistency, rarely sending a bad snap to holder, sophomore wide receiver Leneric Muldrow. With a new snapper arriving direct from high school this summer, Reed and Muldrow have been adjusting to young snappers this spring.

“We’re just trying them out,” Reed said. “They don’t have the experience, but they do have potential to be good.”

Whoever is snapping the ball, Reed will surely make the needed adjustments, just like his entire college career. Reed played running back in high school, and also kicked off a tee, rather than the ground, which he does now. No player is more familiar with Reed’s adjustments than Muldrow, who noticed the biggest difference in Reed’s game.

” He had choppy steps,” Muldrow said. “The coach got mad at me little bit last year because I like to critique him. He had a jive step that kind of slowed him down a little bit, but toward the end of the season he took that jive step out.”

Whether it’s fixing his kicking technique, or learning to kick from off the ground, Reed said his ultimate goal is to become even more consistent in 2008.

“Make after every miss – if I miss, and don’t let anything bother me,” Reed said.

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected].