HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall University football team's kickoff job could come down to the legs of a pair of freshmen.
Amoreto Curraj of Tampa, Fla., and Nick Smith of Plain City, Ohio walked into preseason camp and instantly threw their hats into the ring for that starting role. Both have had pretty good days getting the ball into the end zone, and they both know that's what the Thundering Herd coaches want to see.
"They're looking for touchbacks," Curraj said. "The deeper the ball, the better the ball."
Touchbacks didn't come often for the Herd last season. Of Marshall's 83 kickoffs in 2013, only six were downed for touchbacks, a paltry 7.23-percent rate. That led to some other disappointing numbers, mainly the three kickoff returns for touchdowns the Herd allowed last season.
Smith said he's excited to have the shot at the kickoff job. The transition from high school to college hasn't been easy and he's been working toward this opportunity since his junior year at Alder High School. Curraj has only been kicking a football since his junior year at Leto High, playing soccer before that.
"My junior year, when I started kicking field goals and hit a 50-yarder my first year and my kickoffs were going through the uprights," he said. "Then, I started seeing all these scouts around and I was like, 'Oh, this is serious. I could have a chance here."
Both still have the chance to win the job and no matter the winner, Smith said he's enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to grow closer to the other kickers.
"It's friendly competition," he said. "We're all out here hanging out and spending all day with each other. It's what I've been looking forward to. I've only been here a week and I already feel that chemistry."
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