Next Wednesday is college football's National Signing Day, a huge event for fans in Bulldog Nation. Between now and then Dawg Sports will be profiling every single player in Georgia's 2014 signing class. Tonight we have a couple of players at different ends of the hype spectrum, starting with kicker William Ham.
Go ahead, surf on over to your favorite recruiting website and see what they have to say about Stratford Academy kicker William Ham. The answer is, not a lot. Ham barely made a ripple in the recruiting pond when he committed to the 'Dawgs back in June. Ham has been attending national kicking camps for years and gaining solid reviews. But he didn't have a single major college offer before committing to Georgia after being offered at the Mark Richt Camp.
You can see Ham's highlight video here:
How would I describe Ham's film? Gloriously monotonous. Only a Bulldog fan, tortured by years of directional kicking, could sit there for a solid four minutes watching kickoffs sail out of the back of the end zone. It was enough to drive me to tears. Of course he's doing it from the 40, 5 yards ahead of where he'd kick from in college. But I think it's clear that most of those kicks had plenty of leg to get to the back of the end zone even from 5 yards further back. Ham has been a longtime pupil of special teams guru Chris Sailer, who's also coached many college and pro kickers (including Marshall Morgan). Sailer said last summer that Ham has one of the strongest legs in the class of 2014. With proper training and conditioning one would hope that his leg strength and fundamentals will only improve.
Speaking of which, Ham generally does a good job fundamentally in these highlights. He kicks a ball that gets sufficient "lift". That is, the ball gets into the air quickly enough not to be blocked at the line. His footwork and body angle are also excellent, as you would expect from a kid who's worked really hard to be a consistent kicker. Consistency is, after all, the name of the game in kicking. If there's a downside on Ham, it's that he may actually break his leg in a freak snow tubing accident while on a secret CIA mission. But hey, you want him on that hill. You need him on that hill.
Will Ham is also a player who really, really wanted to be a Bulldog, more than he wanted to earn a scholarship somewhere else. That's never a bad thing in my book. To be fair, books, tuition, room and board in Athens will be less than it was at Stratford, especially if he qualifies for HOPE.
While rising junior Marshall Morgan is probably the kicker of record for the Bulldogs in both 2014 and 2015, Ham joins redshirt sophomore Patrick Beless (who saw action in Morgan's absence early this season) in the race to replace him. It also might not be a bad thing to have a kickoff specialist whose sole job is to kick the damned ball out of the back of the end zone consistently. Just thinking out loud here.
There's a very good reason a preferred walk on kicker is the first player profiled in this series. It's to draw attention to the fact that, while everyone wants to sign a gaggle of five star tailbacks and left tackles, the truth of the matter is that college football recruiting is about filling needs. Signing Ham allows Georgia to pick up one of the best available players at a position of need without even expending a scholarship to do so. That's a huge coup, one which won't show up in the recruiting rankings next Wednesday night. But then, how many people were totally psyched to sign Billy Bennett? Just a little something to think about. Until later . . .