The Raiderland sat down with senior kicker Clayton Hatfield and new special teams coach Adam Scheier at local media day to preview the kicking game for the upcoming season.
Dr. Bob Rotella often says that “Golf is a game of confidence and competence.” That it is not possible to underestimate the how important it is for golfers to be mentally tough in order to succeed at the highest level possible.
Kicking is not much different.
Much like a caddie and a golfer, new special teams head coach Adam Scheier and senior kicker Clayton Hatfield are learning that mental toughness and trust on the field this year, together for the first time.
Coincidentally, they are learning it on the golf course, as well.
“He was trying anything to get in my head,” Hatfield said, smiling and laughing a bit as he told the story of them playing a round of golf together prior to Texas Tech’s local media day last week. “I think golf and kicking are very similar. You have to be mentally strong for so long. You have to be sharp for every shot and you really do have to take it one shot at a time, and one kick at a time. You just have to be ready when it is your turn.”
Rotella also notes one other thing when referring to mental toughness – it’s not the only attribute a golfer, or any athlete for that matter, must possess. They have to have the physical ability to play tough. And that means being just as physically healthy as they are mental.
There may not be another player in Texas Tech’s camp happier about having a clean sheet of health than Hatfield, who was hampered by a leg injury in 2017 that kept him sidelined half of the season. And even when he did return, things still were not the same. He hit just 6 of 10 field goal attempts after missing only three in his first two seasons combined.
“(This season) is just as scary as it is exciting coming back,” Hatfield said. “Because there’s a lot of pressure from everybody, including from myself … I know that I’ve kicked every kick possible – makes and misses. There’s nothing left to be afraid of. Just got to leave it all on the table and give it everything I got.”
Scheier arrives in Lubbock after spending the 2017 season at Ohio State where he served as a special teams quality control coach. He worked closely with head coach Urban Meyer on game-planning, scheme development, opponent scouting and personnel.
The Buckeyes were ranked among the nation’s elite special teams units in his lone season. Ohio State ended the year ninth nationally in punting (led the Big Ten), 10th in kickoff coverage (third in the Big Ten) and 17th for kickoff return (second in the Big Ten). The Buckeyes produced All-Big Ten performers at three special teams positions as well: punter, kickoff return specialist, and kicker.
Anyone could argue that all phases of special teams matter. But the kicking position may be the one Tech fans are concentrating on the most this season. The Red Raiders ranked near the bottom in field goals made per game (0.92) and field goal percentage (52.2). So, a new face in charge of the kicking game and a healthy kicker may be just the right recipe.
Confidence and competence.
“(Clayton’s) success is two-fold,” Scheier said. “He’s got to be healthy. It’s hard to kick when you have a leg injury. He is healthy and his spring performance proved that … I think he’s in a good spot mentally now. He’s confident, because he’s healthy, and he’s performing. And I think he’s confident because he knows that when I send him out there, I know he’s going to make the kick. So, I’m excited for him.”