URBANA (WCIA) — For three years, Chase McLaughlin had a strangle hold on the Illinois kicker position. He was the first Illini ever to make five 50-yard field goals and he never missed a single point after attempt. He’s now playing for the Buffalo Bills, so that position is up for grabs.
“That battle’s going good,” Illinois special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky said. “Here’s a very good competition. I think right now that both kids are showing that they’re capable of doing the job, the biggest thing will be executing in the game.”
The battle is between freshman Caleb Griffin from Danville and junior James McCourt. Each guy used last season to learn from McLaughlin.
“Just seeing about how he goes about kicking,” Griffin said about McLaughlin. “He’s out there like he’ll have fun but when it’s kicking time he’s gonna be locked in. I’ve noticed that’s how I am, I’ll have my fun but when it’s time to kick I need to be completely locked in and that’s what I’ve learned from him.”
“All in all the mental approach that’s the main thing that’s changed,” McCourt said. “My leg strength was always there but getting it down the middle and staying positive after missed kick is what really is the key.”
Griffin has been the more accurate, smoother kicker of the two, while McCourt brings a stronger leg. The Florida native said he hit a 70-yard field goal in pregame at Ohio State last season.
“I would like to say I’m pretty well rounded as a kicker,” McCourt said. “My strength has always been my leg. I’ve always had a pretty strong leg, kickoffs and field goals. Things I’m working on, my consistent ball striking skills but that just comes with repetitions.”
“We’re both competing,” said Griffin. “He wants the job, I want the job, we both want to play and we know which ever one goes out there won the job but we’re always gonna be supporting it.”