Obviously a goal Ohio State The offense is to end every drive with a touchdown celebration. Let’s be real though, not every engine will produce at least six points. The good news for the Buckeyes is that when they have to try for a field goal, they have not just one, but two experienced kick options.
Prior to the start of last season, Ohio State was looking for a player to replace Blake Haubeil, who had taken most of the kicking duties for the Buckeyes in the previous three seasons. Enter Noah Ruggles. who moved into the program from North Carolina, reaching 19 of 27 field goal attempts with the Tar Heels in 2019.
While the Ruggles gave the Buckeyes settling in on Kicker, no one expected the transfer to be as good as it was in 2021. He made 20 of his 21 field goal attempts, and the Ruggles’ 95.2% success rate last year wasn’t just the highest in one season. Field goal conversion rate by an Ohio football player in school history, Ruggles also has the highest career field goal pass rate in school history because he has over 20 field goal attempts.
Ruggles was one of the finalists for the Lou Groza Award in 2021, awarded annually to the best kicker in the country. After failing to win the award last year, which was presented to Michigan kicker Jake Moody, the Ruggles are on a pre-season watch list for the award in 2022. If the Ruggles can win the award this year, they will be second in Ohio State. To earn this honor, the state kicker was joined by 2004 winner Mike Nugent.
No one would fault Ruggles if he had decided to announce NFL Project After last season, because he had already completed five years of college. Instead, the Ruggles announced that he would return to Ohio State for an additional year in college football. Despite returning to Columbus for another year, Ruggles did not participate in spring practices, as he decided to end spring. Ruggles already earned his bachelor’s degree while in North Carolina, and is on his way to graduating with a master’s degree this fall.
Even with the Ruggles in the fold this year, Ohio State is still keeping an eye on the transfer gate. The training change in the West ended up bringing a masterful payoff to Columbus this spring. After a change of training at USC, which saw Lincoln Riley leave Oklahoma for Los Angeles, Lewis was alerted that Riley would not be hiring a special teams coordinator, prompting Lewis to open up his options as to where he would play for the last few seasons. His college football career.
In his first two seasons of college football, Lewis was very productive as a captain for USC, going 9 of 13 on field shootouts as a freshman. Last year, Lewis did even better, making 17 of his 22 attempts, including 52 yards against Arizona. The most memorable play of Lewis’ career so far came in the opening game against Stanford last year, when he was reported to be on target.
So what does adding Lewis to Ohio’s kicking unit mean? If the Ruggles hit three throws like he did last year, there’s no doubt that the job is his job. Lewis will be providing value this year as a specialist initially. Lewis last year ranked 11th in the country taking nearly 80% of kickoffs. Ruggles weren’t entirely effective at eliminating kickbacks, as only 21 of his 99 kickoffs led to the rebound. With Lewis taking over these duties, it will help take some of the pressure off the Ruggles’ leg, as he won’t have to do double duty on field goals/extra points and starters.
Another area where Lewis could be of value is long-range field goals. Ruggles has yet to make a 50-yard field goal in his college career, while Lewis already has a long-range field goal. We’re not saying that Ruggles is unable to hit a field target above 50 yards if asked to do so, but Lewis might be a better choice because with a larger frame he has a little more leg power.
Unlike some years ago where there were more questions about the reliability of kickers on the roster, the Buckeyes now have a surplus of excellent shooting tools, and we didn’t even mention Jake Seibert, who scored a field goal and converted 16 extra points in 2020.
Adding Lewis to the roster not only helps propel the Ruggles this year with some competition for reps in the kicking game, it will also force Seibert to work on his kicks as Lewis and Siebert will compete for a starting point next season after the Ruggles exhaust his college eligibility.
While field goal may look like a flop with talents like CJ Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson on attack, Ryan Day at least can have some confidence when calling in to try to put three points on the board since then. Now he has two really good and experienced ballers on the list. That kind of kicker quality could end up winning a Buckeyes game in 2022.