Hello BGNers. It's been a while since I've posted anything on here, but after multiple promises to BLG to do some more special teams related content, I finally sat down and did something productive. Here's my analysis of Kip Smith, the undrafted free agent punter the Eagles signed to compete with Donnie Jones this summer.
Name: Howard (Kip) Smith; known as Kip
Position: Punter, holder, kickoff
School: UCLA, transferred to Oklahoma State
Class: Redshirt Senior
His story: Smith was rated as the no. 1 place kicker in high school and was recruited by the UCLA coaching staff which preceded Jim Mora’s reign. Smith tore a quadricep in 2011 and Mora brought in a scholarship kicker to replace Smith in 2012. He took a semester off after the abrupt loss of his position at UCLA and ended up at OSU as a transfer. His torn quad apparently affected his kicking strength enough to make him shift to punter. A rather average 2013, his first ever as a punter, led into a 2014 that won him one of the weekly versions of the Ray Guy award.
Statistics via ESPN:
Measurables via CBS (out of 16): 6’1" (T-11), 230 lbs (2); 5.14 40-time (14), 31" arm length (10), 9.25" hand length (7)
Analysis (punter): Takes a step forward to receive the long snap, leading into about a four yard move forward during his kicking motion. The punting motion in itself takes about five total yards. He remains upright without hunching over, and does not tilt back to gain more airtime through lift. Probably the best looking mechanics in this draft class. Consistently replicates them from punt-to-punt without thinking. Smith's gait is slightly to the right, which is his natural throwing/kicking side. He tends to meet the ball with the mid-laces, toward the outside of his foot. That strike point creates a trend of punts that curl toward the right sideline. Smith’s worst punts all had exceptional backspin, culminating in a punt that would sizable chunks of yards.
Much like his holding (see more on that below), Smith catches the ball without hesitation and utilizes his instincts for his overall motion. Smith has an incredibly smooth transition from catching the ball to punting it. Unlike some of the other punters available in this draft class, Smith does not hop or take an unnecessary half step to generate his power. Smith’s power comes directly from his own physical ability. I was generally surprised by how easy it was for Smith to boot the ball down the field. Some of that talent comes from his time as a kicker, during which he filmed himself kicking a 74-yard field goal. What separates Smith from other big legged punters like Sav Rocca is his directional kicking. When asked to coffin corner, Smith was effective.
Smith combines the big leg with directional punting and hang time to form a lethal combination for returners. Collegiate special teams tactics aren’t the best to analysis to determine how things will translate to the NFL, but the consistent result of Smith’s open field punts were either fair catches or burners getting to the ball or returner almost immediately upon the punt meeting the field. Teams typically feigned a punt blitz/block attempt and instead went into a man-to-man or zonal blocking scheme. OSU's gunners and smaller blockers were able to beat the opposing players on a regular basis to the ball. The few times Smith saw pressure were negated by at least two blockers, who sat about seven yards in front of his starting spot.
By my count, and a film of him punting at a training camp prior to the draft, Smith’s punts of at least 40-yards fell between 4.71 and 5.91 seconds of hang time.
Needs to work on touchbacks. Often had too much power or spin on the ball when he punted inside of the 10. The Eagles special teams probably help eliminate some issues there, given their growth downing play the past two seasons. Really my only major problem with Smith's punting, but it's either fixable or manageable.
Analysis (holder): Quick hands and fingers. Smith instinctively handles the ball and the spin for the kicker. Laces out, as Ace Ventura would say, every time. His ability for right footed kickers is perfect. Left footed kickers cause him some problems, as he doesn’t seem to have held for many, if any at all. Not that it’s currently an issue for the Eagles given Cody Parkey’s success last year.
Overall grade: Heading into my second viewing of Smith’s film, during which I found a reasonable amount of footage I had not previously seen, the OSU punter really changed my mind about him. I originally graded him as a bottom half of the class punter, well away from my top three. After giving him another chance, I rescind my now seemingly hasty decision.
I think he may have the best leg in the draft, in spite of the fact that his measurables aren’t the most awe inspiring. Just natural kicking ability. Ignore his averages on the stat sheet, the guy can flat out punt the ball and his mechanics are more than sound. I believe he will put up consistent performances at the NFL level, with the potential to become a top punter. He has the gifts, just up to him to make the team (or a team) and continue to develop.
Basically a C+ or B- with the possibility of upgrading/developing into an A or above even that. You can’t beat a natural, strong leg.
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