Giorgio Tavecchio sets the ball on the tee, and kicks it. He follows that up with kicking, kicking, and more kicking. After kicking what seems like a ton of field goals and kickoffs, along with a few leg exercises, Tavecchio hears the sound of a whistle, and joins the rest of his teammates for warm-ups. After a long day on the field of Memorial Stadium, practice has finally begun.
Though Tavecchio is entering his third year with the program, this will only be his second spring – note that he joined the team as a freshman merely days before the team kicked off the 2008 season. And with a new spring, comes new opportunities along with new special teams coach Jeff Genyk, who has helped alter the philosophy and technique of Tavecchio's kicking leg.
“[Genyk] expects a lot of us,” said Tavecchio. “But he has done a lot for us. He has helped restructure practice a little bit. He has been giving us a lot of drills to do, which I felt with me using them, I've improved a lot. He's really working us hard. He's pushing us to another level, and it's going to make me a better kicker.”
Case in point: during the final team period, the kickers run a kickoff drill where the offense and defense form box targets near the end zone. The kickers – 60 yards away – then have the challenge of kicking the ball off with the goal of hitting the boxed zone with as much hang-time as possible. The drill puts a little extra pressure on the kickers at the end of practice, with all eyes watching. On Tuesday, Tavecchio was a perfect 3-for-3 hitting the landing zone, with an average hang-time of just under four seconds.
“The drill is really, really good,” Tavecchio says. “That puts a lot of pressure on you and, the more you find yourself in those situations, the better you react and you learn how to deal with it.”
“It's a really good tool, and it will help me with special situations in the future.”
Even with a new coach and new drills to improve, the one constant during Tavecchio's time at Cal still sort of lingers around – inconsistency. That inconsistency has prevented him from firmly grasping a hold of the kicker spot, resulting in a career so far mired with ups and downs.
As a freshman, Tavecchio was elected to kickoff to open up the 2008 season against Michigan State, merely days after joining the team. Later in the year, Tavecchio would eventually take a hold of kicking duties and not let go. Despite a strong finish in 2008, Tavecchio had to fight for the job with then-freshman Vince D'Amato. As a result, Tavecchio spent all of 2009 splitting time, battling in practice, needing stitches for an in-game tackle, and kicking a game-winning field goal at Arizona State.
But the process starts over for Tavecchio.
Even with a new coach and new drills to improve, Tavecchio also gets a clean slate to work from. Hard work and extra time spent with D'Amato will only assist the team goal: to win.
And young Giorgio knows how to get there.
“Consistency is the key.”
This is why he puts in the extra time every practice.
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