To be frank, the UCLA Bruins have not been very good at much on the football field lately. But one thing you could always count on was excellent kicking units. Kai Forbath was one of the best kickers in the country for four years and won the Lou Groza Award in 2009, and Jeff Locke has had UCLA hovering near the top in punting and kickoffs the past two seasons.
However, Forbath's departure to the NFL (currently with the Dallas Cowboys) leaves the Bruins with no adequate short-term replacement. Kip Smith is a redshirt freshman who was widely considered one of the top recruited kicker sin the country, but he hasn't been that impressive as of yet.
Jeff Locke, who led the Pac-10 in punting last season and was fourth in the nation, became UCLA's primary field-goal kicker in practice Monday, supplanting -- at least for the day -- the inconsistent Kip Simth and Joe Roberts.
Locke made three of three field-goal attempts in pre-practice drills, hitting each one right down the middle, and then made well-struck field goals of 35 and 34 yards to finish off drives in the two-minute drill at the end of practice.
"It was good to see him go in there and do it in a situation where there was a little heat on it and we’ve got to do what’s best for our football team," coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Locke might be good, but he probably won't be good enough to handle all three responsibilities this season without eventually fatiguing his leg and seeing his performance level drop off in the categories he excels. As the rest of the Bruins catch up to the standard the kicking and punting has set in Westwood, the kicking might be regressing to the mean.
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