November 18, 2009

Alex Carlton continues to be a bright spot

Even as Army heads into the final two games of the season, there is no question that special teams continue to be one of Army's biggest concerns, where it has lagged behind other parts of the Black Knights' game and overall, they have consistently under achieved.

Obviously this area of the team is one that most likely will go through a complete coaches' diagnostics-evaluation in the offseason, because the net results have been little to zero when it comes to productivity.

In the face of all that, the true bright spot on the special teams this season has been field goal kicker Alex Carlton, who did not start off as the season's starter. However, hard work has paid off and things have worked out well for the sophomore kicker. However, it has not all been one happy party for Carlton, who has had his share of up & down moments throughout the 2009 campaign and will be the first to admit to his displeasure in some of his game performances.

"The season in general has gone good for me, but there are definitely a couple kicks I should have made," Carlton shares with "My second field gold against Duke was short and hit the upright, the Tulane game, the short one against Iowa State I probably should have made and I missed another against Temple. In my mind, I should have been 20 for 20 right now and there weren't any kicks that I shouldn't have made, but overall I'm pretty happy with my performance and I'm just glad that I can contribute to the team."

Carlton continues improve and overall, he has compiled a outstanding season, despite missing a critical field goal against Tulane.

He has connected on 16-of-20 (.800) field goals and converted 11-of-11 extra points. In addition, Carlton ranks 7th in the nation, where he averages 1.78 field goals made per game.
Too often during the season, the Black Knights' offense has been unable to capitalize on field position, in either the green or red zones, and Coach Ellerson has had to call upon his sophomore kicker to provide points, where the "O" has not been able to.

Even with moments like the Tulane game, Carlton understands that like a cornerback who is beat on a pass play for a touchdown, you have to have selective memory, and prepare yourself for the next opportunity, because for kickers, there's always a next time. "As a kicker you definitely have to have a short memory, and those things will always be in your mind, but you just have to take it game by game," Carlton stated. "So, I try to focus on being perfect every game and within that game, taking it kick by kick and being perfect on that kick. And if you happen to miss one, you may take a couple of minutes to think about it … get everything out of your system, but from there on, you have to clear it, because there are going to be more opportunities in the game and you need to have your mindset on that kick and not the one you just missed."


With that in mind, Carlton talked about the steps that he and the other members of the kicking crew on the special teams take to prepare week in and week out.

"We come out as a unit …the snappers, kickers and punters, about thirty minutes before practice starts, shares Carlton as he paints a picture of his daily practice routine. "We'll just go through a warm-up, get our stretches in and probably do about 20-30 kicks just to get a warm-up. While the rest of the team is doing their warm-up, we go off to the side and we kick with the snap-hold-kick on camera. They film the whole process and they get the times, where Coach Ellerson and Ross watch that film.

Once we get into the team part of practice, we're pretty much on our own to work on whatever we need to work on. If that's field goals, kickoffs onside kicks and at the end of practice we usually do one special team thing.

Before every game we (Coach Ellerson) talk about the conditions, what the wind is like going each way. I will give him an estimate on what my distance is, going with and against the wind."


It is this level of communication and Carlton's continued development that has driven Ellerson's confidence level upward, where he doesn't hesitate to call upon his kicker in crunch time.

No better proof was when he hit a 51 yarder against Vanderbilt. "For that game we talked about it and Coach Ellerson said that if we get the ball to the 35 yard line going into the Kimsey (Center) side, we'll kick I," said Carlton. "I knew when we were there we were going to kick that field goal, because he told me on the 3rd down play that if we don't get this one here, we are going to kick one, so I was ready for that one."

So, does Carlton know how much depth he has in his leg if called upon? "When were out at Colorado, I was hitting at midfield with no problem, but it's a little different here," shared a laughing Carlton, when describing the impact of the Colorado altitude. "Honestly it's really a game by game thing … a day by day thing. It defiantly depends on where we were playing and the weather is like."


What are the possibilities of adding kickoff to his list of duties? "With kickoffs we work on it every day and we go into as if we are the starter in practice," declares Carlton. "Matt (Campbell) goes into the practice thinking that he's the starter on field goals and I go into the practice thinking I'm the starter on kickoffs, because competition is what is going to make you better. In the offseason, kickoffs is something that I will be working on, but right now my mind is on field goals."
While Carlton has been doing many good things, he is still getting better and that's great news as the Army fans look ahead to the next two years.

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