Written by Guest Blogger: Josh Smith blogskeeweewee.blogspot.com
When training camp opened for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in June of 2011, one of the fiercest battles in camp was between Justin Medlock and Eric Wilbur. Both men were competing to see who the placekicker/punter would be for the Tiger-Cats for the upcoming season. Both men battled hard, and the decision was not easy. In the end, Justin Medlock won the competition, and Eric Wilbur was released.
While Justin Medlock was the superior placekicker, Eric Wilbur was the superior punter. Each player was decent at the other position, but not good enough to separate himself from the other in any drastic way. Despite each player excelling at one aspect of the kicking game, it was impossible for the Tiger-Cats to keep and play both men because of roster size and ration considerations.
This is a story that is familiar around the league. Six of the eight CFL franchises employ only one man to handle both kicking duties.
While football becomes more and more specialized – think Wildcat quarterbacks and third-down running backs – the CFL still operates as if the kicking game should be handled by one player. No-one has really advocated for change; we all just accept that in the CFL, one man should handle both jobs.
But what if the CFL mandated that each team had to carry a placekicker and a punter? The specialization of the kicking game would more than likely lead to an increase in production from both positions.
Currently, there are only two teams in the CFL that carry both a placekicker and a punter: Winnipeg and Calgary. In both instances, the teams use Non-Imports at both positions. In Winnipeg, Mike Renaud handles the punting, while Justin Palardy handles the placekicking. Palardy has become one of the league’s better placekickers since heading to Winnipeg after a somewhat acrimonious split from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2010. In Hamilton, Palardy was forced to become a punter, a role he was ill-suited for.
In Calgary, Rob Maver boots the field goals, while Burke Dales hoofs the punts. Maver, who is out right now with an injury, is arguably the league’s best placekicker. He led the CFL in scoring last year and has a bright future ahead of him once he returns from injury.
While both players can punt – Maver was a punter in university, and Palardy did it as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – the fact that both players do not have to concern themselves with punting has allowed them to excel at placekicking.
Forcing every team in the league to operate in the same way that the Blue Bombers and Stampeders do would lead to greater production out of each position. Just look at Rob Maver. Without needing to concentrate on punting, he was able to spend all his time concentrating on placekicking, and he ended up leading the league in scoring as a rookie with 185 points.
Greater production from the kicking game could only be a positive for the league and its fans.