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Special Teams Competition Heats Up

April 27, 2000

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A lot of competition has permeated into Notre Dame’s spring practice.

While many are aware of the competition at tailback and cornerback, some remain unaware of the battle for starting placekicker and punter for the Irish.

One of the most experienced members of the unit, punter, Joey Hildbold is struggling. Davie stated that Hildbold has experienced some trouble with his punting this spring, which has kept Nick Setta in the hunt. Hildbold finished the ’99 campaign with 54 punts, averaging 39 yards.

Setta will enter his sophomore year come this fall. The punter/kicker entered Notre Dame with an impressive resume, which includes Parade All-American as well as USA Today first team All-America. Despite all the accolades, Irish head coach Bob Davie opted not to use Setta in ’99. The freshman was forced to wait until spring to challenge for the starting spot. His chance got postponed. Setta sprained his ankle, forcing him to miss several spring practices.

With Hildbold’s miscues in the past couple of practices, he has left the door open for Setta. Setta is back in practice and drawing a lot of attention.

Currently the Irish have three prospects for the starting kicker, David Miller, Nick Setta and Matt McNew. Miller is the most experienced of the group, having seen some action in the ’99 season. He attempted five field goals and made good on two of them.

“They have improved this spring,” Irish head coach Bob Davie said about the Irish’s kicking unit. “We have three kickers who are all in contention. We have spent a lot of time in placekicking. I am not sure whom the placekicker is going to be but we will find out in the fall. Collectively, I think we are pretty talented.”

Setta has yet to see any action in an Irish uniform. Davie tossed about the notion of having him play late season but chose not to play him in order for him to retain another year of eligibility.

Challenging for the starting placekicking job is soccer convert McNew. McNew made his mark at Notre Dame with the men’s soccer team. He started 77 games on defense for the Irish.

McNew played both soccer and football at Arlington Lamar High School and proved a standout in both. He lettered for football as a kicker/punter and tight end for his school. McNew was a two-time all state selection in football, not to mention setting several kicking records.

After Tuesday’s practice, Davie seemed confident in McNew. He stated that McNew currently has the lead in the competition for kickoffs.

The kickers will get a final chance to show their stuff on Saturday at the Blue-Gold Game. This year’s scrimmage will take on a different format, which will include some drills for the kickers, allowing them a final opportunity to show their stuff.