Adam Mitcheson did not take anything for granted this summer entering the University at Buffalo training camp as the only scholarship kicker on the roster.
Mitcheson, a redshirt freshman from suburban Pittsburgh, had little serious competition to take over for Patrick Clarke, who had kicked for the Bulls the previous three seasons.
Still, Mitcheson worked hard on his craft between the end of the spring semester in May and the start of training camp in August.
“Probably the biggest jump for me was from spring to this fall,” Mitcheson said. “Summer time was a big time for me. I was up here all summer working. That was nice. That helped me a lot.”
UB is feeling good about its new kicker heading into Saturday’s game at Florida Atlantic. He made a 40-yard kick in UB’s opener against Albany. He missed from 47 yards in the rain at Penn State last Saturday, but the fact UB coach Lance Leipold even let him try it in adverse conditions was an endorsement.
“I thought he had an excellent camp,” Leipold said. “With a redshirt freshman and the weather in spring practice, it was hard to get a good read. But I was very, very pleased with his training camp. That’s why we put him out there like we did Saturday at Penn State. I thought he tried to over-kick it, drive it harder than he needed to. But I think he’s been extremely solid.”
Mitcheson spent July working with Williamsville resident Adam Tanalski, a former UB kicker who runs the Hammer Kicking Academy, a series of camps across the country. Mitcheson also got a confidence boost from a July trip to Wisconsin he took with UB punter Tyler Grassman. That was for the Kohl’s National Elite Camp, held at Leipold’s former school, Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“There were 28 NFL guys there, and 140 Division I kickers and punters,” Mitcheson said. “Tim Masthay, the Packers’ punter, Tom Morstead of the Saints, Cody Parkey of the Eagles, they all come out to train. It was good to be around them to learn.”
Mitcheson won the “underclassman challenge,” a field-goal accuracy competition that included roughly 30 of the college kickers. They had to kick from 40, 45, 50 and 55 yards. Two misses eliminated you from competition. Mitcheson connected from all four distances without a miss.
Tanalski, who kicked for UB in 2006, helped Mitcheson land with the Bulls.
Mitcheson attended a one-day Hammer Academy camp in Pittsburgh. Tanalski knew UB was looking for an heir to Clarke, who was going to be a senior in 2014.
“That year I had also run the University at Buffalo special teams camp,” Tanalski said. “They offered one of our guys, who wound up going to Boston College. I made a suggestion that I thought Adam was a scholarship-level kicker.”
A week later, Mitcheson visited UB, and he picked the Bulls over Temple, Stony Brook, James Madison and Youngstown State.
“It was a good situation for me to come into,” Mitcheson said. “They had a senior kicker, and then hopefully it would be my turn.”
“He’s a kid who really gets elevation on the ball,” Tanalski said. “He made the final four of our Buffalo Elite camp. He had a great summer and I expect him to do great.”
UB is hoping the placekicking is better than last season. Clarke was excellent his first three seasons but struggled as a senior, hitting just 6 of 14 field goal tries.
“I didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past, but last year the kicking game wasn’t where it needed to be,” Leipold said. “We’re going to need him.”