Donnie Carona’s powerful leg made him an easy choice to handle Texas Tech’s kickoffs and field goals during the upcoming season.
The senior from Beaumont kicked a 55-yard field goal during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday. On Saturday, he made kicks from distances of 54, 44, 27, 49 and 50 yards.
But he also missed from 23, 44 and 41 yards out.
“He’s inconsistent, but we’ve kicked a lot of long field goals,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “I think he’s been pretty good from long field goals. Short field goals we should be in good shape, but not as consistent as we’d like to be.”
Tuberville noted fatigue has been a factor.
There has been competition at nearly every other spot on the field during Tech’s preseason camp. Even starting quarterback Seth Doege wasn’t guaranteed the job at the start of August.
Carona, though, is Tech’s only kicking option, Tuberville said. There is no suitable backup.
So shoring up his inconsistencies has been the focus of his spring and summer camps. Carona has a career 5-for-13 showing on field goals, including 4-for-9 when he was the Red Raiders’ primary kicker for the first two-thirds of his freshman season.
“You can’t really sit there and worry about what you’ve done in the past because that won’t make you better,” Carona said.
He starts each day with extra points. Then he’ll take a few steps back, throw the ball somewhere and kick from there. Then Carona works with his snapper and holder, who decide where he’ll kick.
“I can’t pick in a game (where I kick), so they get to choose.” he said.
Carona said he’s taken about 400 kicks during preseason camp in addition to his punting and kickoff duties.
He’s been handling kickoffs for each of the last three years but is the No. 1 field-goal kicker for the first time since 2008, when Matt Williams emerged to take the job for the final month and the rest of his career. Williams was a senior last year.
At the end of each practice the team huddles around Carona for a kick that will determine whether they all have to run.
Tuberville tries to simulate a game atmosphere as much as possible, providing physical and verbal distractions.
“They love me whenever I make them and hate me when I miss,” Carona said. “You’ve just got to look past that and just focus in because that’s what the game is. It can come down to the final kick.”
If and when that happens, Carona believes he now possesses the talent and the mentality to kick a game-winner.
If he doesn’t, he knows Tuberville will find somebody — anybody — to take his place.
“If I keep missing kicks, they’re not going to have me stay out there,” Carona said. ”I feel that pressure, but the good thing about kicker is that it’s just you, and what happens depends on you and nobody else.”
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