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August 8, 2012

Fera's transfer from Penn State can't be overestimated

New Texas kicker Anthony Fera was at practice Monday night and appears capable of handling any chores asked of him - kicking field goals, punting or kicking off. Fera was an All-Big Ten candidate at Penn State leading into this season.

This pickup by Texas was so huge it can't be overestimated.

In a year in which Texas may well be relying on its defense and running game, thus resulting in some low-scoring fist fights with field goals at a premium, that's no hyperbole.

Huge.

If Fera does what he did at Penn state (connecting on 14 of 17 field goals; averaging 42 yards per punt; and booming kickoffs into the end zone), then it's likely UT's six-year run of incredible field goal kicking will continue.

From Dusty Mangum to Ryan Bailey and Hunter Lawrence to Justin Tucker - every single one hit game-winning field goals in games ranging from regular season (Bailey at Nebraska in 2006 and at Oklahoma State in 2007) to bowl games (Mangum vs Michigan in the Rose) to Big 12 title games (Lawrence beats Nebraska in 2009 with a second left after going 6-of-6 in close wins over OU in 08 and 09) to rivalry enders (Tucker at Texas A&M in 2011).

So to entrust the kicking to a true freshman (likely Nick Jordan of Coppell), would have been harrowing in 2012. Instead, Fera comes in with experience kicking in front of 107,282 at Penn State's Beaver Stadium.

And he brings a toughness with him, according to Robin Kirk, Anthony's high school coach at St. Pius X in Houston, who helped coordinate Fera's transfer to Texas.

Here's a quick scouting report from Kirk on Anthony Fera:

"Very few times are you going to have a kicker who is a leader," Kirk said. "But Tony could have played linebacker. He's a tough son of a gun. On kickoffs, he would knock the heck out of people. He was a physical dude on those plays. Most kickers were going to kick the ball and get away from it.

"We had to get on Anthony not to get into it too much because he was so valuable to us.

"That's why I told him he wouldn't be playing anything but kicker for us, because I told him you've got a chance to go to the show.

"He was kind like a pitcher in high school who is throwing 95. You don't want to take any chances in derailing that."

Last season, Fera connected on 14-of-17 field goals (82.4 percent) and was 20-of-20 on extra point attempts at Penn State, scoring a team-high 62 points.

Fera averaged 42.0 yards on 64 punts, with 18 kicks landing inside the 20.

He also delivered 12 punts of 50 or more yards, led by a career-best 69-yard effort late in a close win over Purdue.

So I asked Kirk how would you characterize Fera's mental toughness?

"Texas is getting a kid who has already been on the big stage," Kirk said. "The big crowds and pressure kicks never fazed him. That's why I think Texas pursued Anthony."

From the "Did You Know?" category, Fera started at Klein High School before transferring to St. Pius X. He did so, in part, because Texas A&M kicker Randy Bullock was a year ahead of Fera at Klein.

"Anthony realized there could be only one kicker. So we were lucky to get him at Pius," Kirk said. "What are the odds of having two nationally recognized kickers on the same team?

"Bullock won the Groza Award and is phenomenal. But I think Anthony has the same type of potential and has already been on the big stage.

"I don't think he ever shied away from competing with Randy. But he realized Randy was a year ahead of him, and there could only be one kicker."

Fera, a redshirt junior (with two years of eligibility remaining), plans to take the hours needed at Texas to complete his degree at Penn State before enrolling in graduate school at Texas.

"A new chapter in my life begins next week, and I am very excited to play for such a well-respected coach in Mack Brown, and a Longhorn football program that is traditionally one of the finest in the nation," Anthony Fera said in a statement.

"My family and I had a chance to visit Austin and get to know the coaches and some of the players last weekend. It is a wonderful place and we had a great time. I feel like I can have another extended family in Austin, and I'm really looking forward to being a part of the team and campus community.

Fera's arrival Monday night at practice was huge.

Huge.



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