COLUMBIA — Things are looking up these days for Andrew Baggett.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Baggett, a redshirt freshman walk-on, has made seven consecutive field-goal attempts for the Tigers. Not bad for a kicker who, just five games ago, had missed four of his first seven tries of the season and was coming off a disastrous one-for-four performance in a 24-20 win over Arizona State.
I looked at that stat and it did make me mad, said Baggett, a graduate of Lees Summit North. I didnt want to be three for seven or whatever it was. I know that Im better than that. (I decided) Im not missing from here on out.
He hasnt, though he says there was no magic remedy for his early struggles. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said some of Baggetts misses can be attributed to poor snaps or holds, but Pinkel has also made it clear that repetition has helped.
In the last three or four weeks hes (been) better in practice, Pinkel said, simulating the motion of knocking on wood. Hes working very hard at it.
For instance, Pinkel says Baggett is often called on without warning to attempt field goals in practice, just to simulate a pressure situation.
Its like being a golfer, Pinkel said. Youre in that arena, youre out there by yourself youve got to have something special about you to do something like that in that environment.
MU coaches say Baggetts leg strength stands out. Thats what receivers coach Andy Hill, MUs Kansas City recruiting liaison, first noticed.
A lot of the coaches in the KC area were talking about him having an extremely strong leg, and then you saw on film that he was hitting it through the uprights and hitting the trucks and long jump pits in (the back of the end zones), Hill said. We did some more investigation and we got lucky getting him here.
Especially when you consider that MU prefers not to award scholarships to kickers.
To be honest, its worked out better for us to have guys walk on and earn the scholarship, Hill said of the kickers. It seems like since Ive been back in Missouri coaching, every guy weve given a scholarship to and not 100 percent, but better than half has not really panned out.
So when Hill visited Lees Summit North in January 2011, a few months after Baggetts senior season ended, he gave Baggett a chance to be a preferred walk-on and nothing more. Baggett, a lifelong Missouri fan who played soccer for 15 years before he decided to kick for the football team his senior year, understood.
Everyone can make it from 40 (yards) and in that doesnt make you exceptional, Baggett said. They dont want to waste a scholarship when youre not really going to perform. But Ive always been a huge Mizzou fan. Ive got posters and everything, watched them my whole life. I couldnt really walk away from this. Id regret it if I went somewhere else.
So Baggett, who said he took an official visit to Southern Illinois for football, eventually decided to become a Tiger and quit soccer.
Im not really built for soccer, Baggett said. Running is not my forte. College soccer, I just thought of all the running Id have to do. We do a lot of sprints (here), but soccer is just like long distance and its pretty miserable.
Miserable may not be a bad word to describe how Baggett felt when the field goal unit was struggling. But as his coach would attest, Baggett has come a long way in a short period of time.
He still gets frustrated a little bit sometimes those guys are their own worst enemies, and quarterbacks are the same way, Pinkel said. But in the staff meetings, I could go in and say that hey, hes been kicking better. And now we have the stats to prove it.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.