Since 2014, Virginia Tech has had stability at a position that's more important than most realize, kicker. While Joey Slye had his lowest field goal percentage of his career as a senior in 2017, the stability and consistency he provided over the past four years was something that very few schools have had at the kicker position.
Slye's accuracy from 45+ yards wasn't great, but Slye almost always made the kicks you expect a collegiate kicker to make unless they were blocked. Beyond field goal kicking, Slye's big leg made him the ideal man for kickoffs. This past season, Slye finished tied for seventh in the country in touchbacks despite playing in only 11 games while getting touchbacks on an impressive 82.8% of his kickoffs, making life pretty easy for Virginia Tech's kick coverage unit.
However, Slye has gone meaning that for the first time since 2014 when Slye beat out on-scholarship K Michael Santamaria and former Blacksburg HS star Carson Wise, the Hokies will have a kicking competition.
While this year's competition won't include a kicker that is on-scholarship, this year's kicker battle once again includes someone from the Washington D.C. area in D.C. native Brian Johnson and Southwest Virginia native Jordan Stout.
Johnson would appear to be the on-paper favorite as Joey Slye's backup last season who filled in for a few games when Slye was hurt. However, Jordan Stout should be a serious contender after appearing to take a redshirt year this past season as the backup punter to Oscar Bradburn.
wasn't bad in his brief playing time in 2017 going 3-4 on field goals with a long of 30 yards while going 5-5 on extra points. Johnson has shown that he has a pretty good leg with 6 touchbacks out of 12 kickoffs in Virginia Tech's final three regular season games.
Johnson has shown decent leg strength and has shown decent accuracy from 30 yards or less, but his experience is definitely limited and not a big difference between him and Stout. His experience may give him the slight edge early on, but it likely won't be a factor whenever a decision on the starting kicker is made.
Meanwhile, Jordan Stout spent last season as the backup punter with the goal of pushing Oscar Bradburn and being ready in case Bradburn got hurt. That was due to the fact that VT lacked a backup punter with Joey Slye being the previously best option in 2016 behind Mitchell Ludwig.
However, Stout has the versatility to be a kicker or punter and while he appeared to be the answer at punter before the arrival of Bradburn, he's possibly become the future at kicker.
While Stout is much more of an unknown due to how we haven't seen him in a game, what we do know is that he was regarded as a five-star kicker and punter by Kohl's Kicking
coming out of high school. Stout also has a strong leg as shown by this video of him making a 67-yard field goal in Lane back in January.
Stout's leg strength and national pedigree among the kicking rankings are two big reasons why no one should think that Johnson is guaranteed to win this battle. Stout has clearly spent some time working on his kicking skills even while he was backing up Oscar Bradburn this past season.
Entering this spring, the kicking battle is one of the most wide open that Virginia Tech will have. Brian Johnson is the more known commodity as he was able to get the job done relatively well when Tech needed him to fill in for Joey Slye, but he hasn't necessarily shown great leg strength. Meanwhile, Jordan Stout may be the kicker with more upside and the bigger leg, but is more of the unknown after backing up Oscar Bradburn this past spring.
After years of stability, one of the Hokies' most important position battles will come at kicker this spring between a pair of young kickers who could be the guy for 3-4 years like Joey Slye.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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