In his turnaround from scuffling freshman to standout sophomore last year, South Carolina kicker Parker White boosted his field goal make rate by more than 25 percentage points, finishing in the top 40 nationally and in the top half of the SEC.
But at the same time, White’s range, or at least what coach Will Muschamp asked of him, seemed to decrease -- in his first season, White was 4-for-14 on kicks from 40 or more yards out, with a long of 47. In his second, he was 2-for-4, with a long of 42.
Heading into his junior year, however, the newly-minted scholarship player has been stretching his leg in training camp.
“I’ve attempted a couple over 50 (yards), more over 45. You know, anything inside of 60 or in, I feel good,” White said. “I think the farthest I’ve attempted so far in camp is a 53 and I think the farthest I made is a 52, something like that. So I haven’t gone too too far yet but again, I can feel comfortable inside 60.”
And after making 81% of his kicks last year, White says his percentage is up so far.
“I think I’m at like 89% right now in camp so far, because we’re charting every day,” White said.
So what will be his target line, at least early in the season?
“When we do one-minute competitions and stuff like that, the goal for the offense is to get to 35, is what (Muschamp) tells them,” White said. “If they come a little bit short, if they get to the 40, that’d be 57-, 58-yarder on like a good hit. That’s still makeable.”
The USC program record for longest field goal make is 58 yards, set by Mark Fleetwood in 1982. At 52 or 53 yards, where a 35-yard target line would put a kick, White would vault into the top 10 in program history, alongside Gamecock great Ryan Succop, who White credited for helping spark his turnaround last year.
Of course, field goals aren’t the goal -- touchdowns are. Especially once the offense gets down towards the red zone, White’s presence on the field is more of a disappointing consolation than something to be celebrated. Muschamp, quarterbacks coach Dan Werner and senior QB Jake Bentley have all said as much this training camp.
But from short distance, White has been basically automatic -- inside 30 yards, he’s never missed a kick in his career, and inside 40, he’s made 91%. And at the end of the day, White noted, they’re all worth three points.
And even if the offense doesn’t get that close this year, White plans on being ready to put up points anyway.
“Kicking long kicks is great, it kind of almost bails the offense out if they don’t get quite far enough downfield, but I think the goal for Jake ... and for the whole offense is like 35. And they’ve kind of done their job, which would be a 53-yarder, which is definitely feasible. It’s definitely really cool to make the long kicks,” White said.