May 16, 2008

Carona ready to step right in

After All-Big 12 kicker Alex Trlica completed his career as a Red Raider, head coach Mike Leach felt a scholarship spent on a high school kicker would be well worth it. Leach's primary target was Beaumont, Texas, athlete Donnie Carona. Although he is going to play kicker at Tech and is listed as a kicker in the Rivals.com database, Carona is an athlete in the truest sense.

The 6-foot, 210-pounder started at linebacker on varsity his first three seasons at Monsignor Kelly High School. Carona did not play linebacker his senior season, but he rushed for 792 yards and 9 touchdowns as he starred at running back.

"My team went 9-0 in the regular season, then we lost our first playoff game. I got to play running back as well as kicker, so it went really well. I ended up being an all-state running back and an all-state punter, so it wasn't bad."

Carona had a great season on special teams as well. He connected on 4 of 5 field goals with a long of 49 yards and was 37 of 38 on PAT's. His 42.7 yards per punt average was one of the best in the state.

Going from the private school ranks to Big 12 football is something Carona looks forward to, but he realizes it's going to take a lot of hard work to be successful.

"Coach Wylie sent me the workout packet for the spring so I've been trying to follow that. It's an incredible workout with the running and also the weights, so I've been trying to keep up with that."

As far as kicking goes, Carona has an idea of what he needs to work on before fall camp opens up in a few months.

"You can never be accurate enough. That's probably the biggest thing, working on that. Also on kickoffs, I want to try to kick out of the endzone every time."

After inside receivers coach Dana Holgorsen, who was Carona's recruiting coach, left Tech to become the offensive coordinator at UH, there was quite a shakeup on the coaching staff. Former special teams coach Dennis Simmons moved to the outside receivers coach position and graduate assistant Clay McGuire, a former Tech H-back under Leach, was promoted to special teams coach. With that in mind, how does the promotion of McGuire affect Carona?

"When I was up there [on my official visit Coach McGuire] was with me most of the weekend, but at that time Coach Simmons was still the special teams coach. I gave [Coach McGuire] a call when he became the special teams coach and we had talked, but he had just had a kid so we didn't get to talk that much. I really liked him when I was up there and he seems like a great guy. I talked to Jonathan Lacour and he said he likes [McGuire] so far."

Carona will contribute immediately at Tech and will probably win the starting job. Look for him to be a vital component of the Red Raiders' run at a championship next season.


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