The battle for the Hokies' kicking duties, arguably the most competitive battle this summer, changed course again Saturday. Hours before Virginia Tech kicked off their 2014 season against William & Mary, Joey Slye supplanted fellow freshman Michael Santamaria as place kicker against the Tribe.
Last weekend Santamaria jumped to the top of the Hokies pecking order, but Slye got the nod on game day. He went two for two on field goal attempts, along with four extra points. He also handled kickoff duties for Tech. He was the first freshman kicker to start a season for the Hokies since Carter Warley in 2000.
Head coach Frank Beamer didn't provide a specific reason for the late alteration saying after the game that Slye had, "a great week of kicking," but it likely came down to consistency.
"We know day by day, he's charting everything we do and ultimately the most consistent kicker is going to be the one who starts" Santamaria told Roanoke.com during camp. The pair of kickers often changed places on the teams fluid depth chart during training camp daily, based on a knockout-style competition. The most consistent kicker would usually find themselves on top of the kickers chart the next day.
Kicker Joey Slye became the first freshman kicker to open the season as Tech’s starting placekicker since Carter Warley in 2000.— VT Football (@VT_Football) August 30, 2014
At 215 pounds Slye doesn't look the part of your average placekicker, and even expressed an interest of taking drills at linebacker if he lost out to Santamaria during training camp. However, it appears he can forget about shedding tackling dummies, and focus on field goals after receiving Beamer's blessing this weekend.
While a decision has not been made about who will kick next Saturday against Ohio State, its likely to remain Slye for a sense of stability, if for no other reason. Should Slye falter, the team will likely see what is has in Santamaria after bringing him in on a rare kicker scholarship.
The last kicker brought in by Virginia Tech on scholarship was the troubled Cody Journell, who was finally removed from the team last November after several off field transgressions. Journell and three other kickers missed 11 field goals last season, an astounding six of them from inside 40 yards.
While the Hokies would like to get a return on their investment with Santamaria, the first concern must be stabilizing the kicking game as a whole. After a fierce battle this summer Beamer has apparently decided Slye is the man to lead kicking corps going forward.