Friday night was supposed to be a hard fought game between the defending Pennsylvania Class AAAA…
McManus Bringing Big Leg To Linc
As the ball split the uprights, it was still on an upward plane. The practice field goal was just one example of the skills that made McManus the first scholarship kicker to join the team in Coach Al Golden's four-year tenure.
"I can go back to 60 (yards)," said McManus, who hit a 55-yard field goal and seven of more than 40 yards during his time at North Penn High School in the Philadelphia suburbs. "I feel comfortable in the 50s. At 60, I just have to hit the ball well."
Even though he was still enjoying his senior year of high school, McManus showed up on the depth chart as the No. 1 kicker along with redshirt senior Jake Brownell at the end of Temple's spring practice period. McManus is battling Brownell and junior punter Jeff Wathne, both two-year starters at their positions, for playing time this fall.
"I just looked at it as an opportunity for me to play," McManus said of his inclusion on the depth chart. "Jake's a good kicker and has had great years here. Jeff's a good kicker, too. I'm just hoping to play. You just have to block everything out, stay in your zone, do what you can do and hope it's enough."
McManus' path to playing time could be as kickoff specialist and long-range kicker since he has better range than Brownell. As a senior, McManus notched touchbacks on his kickoffs an incredible 68 of 80 times.
"I think just my leg speed is very fast and I have a great follow-through," McManus said of his aptitude for putting the other team on the 20. "If I have a good hurdle-step after I kickoff, I can kick it high and far. I feel kickoffs are the most important part of the game. It helps your defense [pin] the opponent deep, and that gives your offense a short field.
"Anything I can do to get on the field and help the team win, it's what I'll do. I like [practicing kicking and punting] because it gives me more value. If someone gets hurt, I'm right in the mix."
A week ago, Golden listed Brownell as the top field goal kicker, Wathne the top punter and McManus the best at kickoffs. Recently, he said McManus or Brownell could handle field goals.
"I started off rough, but I've picked up my game," said McManus, who converted all 78 of his extra-point attempts last year.
Golden said he would carry McManus on the game day roster as a kickoff specialist if he didn't win the kicking or punting job.
"It's that important," Golden said. "He was hitting some good ones the other day. Jeff has experience kicking off, too, so we have more depth there. Overall, I feel better about the depth, and I love the competition. The guys all have a great attitude. We'll see how it shakes out.
"The last spot on the team that needed competition was the kicking spot, and that is clearly a different spot (because of McManus). He's in the mix at all three spots. I'm excited about the kicking competition."
While Brownell stands in his way this year, McManus has been happy to have the veteran around. Brownell has helped McManus' adjustment to college, especially since the senior is headed to medical school next year and the freshman has designs on being an orthopedic surgeon.
"We're friends off the field," McManus said. "He's taught me a lot of things about what I should do in school, what courses I should take."
Despite being the starting kicker at North Penn for four years, McManus attempted just 22 field goals, converting 15. He'll certainly have more chances at Temple, be it this year or next after Brownell moves on.
"My high school team was pretty good, we scored a lot of touchdowns," McManus said. "I didn't get too many opportunities."
Even if McManus doesn't prevail in the competition to be the field goal kicker, when the Owls get set to kickoff the 2009 season against Villanova a week from Thursday, he'll likely be the one teeing up the ball.
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