August 21, 2008

Shene wants to experience new thrill

Joshua Shene has learned one thing in his first two years as a starting kicker in the Southeastern Conference: Nothing is more important than health.

After a phenomenal freshman year, Shene spent the first two-thirds of the 2007 kicking with an injured groin, an injury that messed up his mechanics and didn't do much to help his accuracy, either.

A year later, the junior from Oklahoma City is healthy, happy and looking forward to doing something he still hasn't had a chance to do at the college level -- kick a game-winner.

"I haven't had any problems so far, knock on wood, so hopefully this year I can stay injury free," said Shene, who was just 11-for-17 kicking field goals last season after nailing 14 of 17 kicks as a true freshman in 2006. "Trying to kick with a hurt groin is really difficult, as last year you saw. It was difficult to watch, I think."

Ole Miss hasn't won much during Shene's career, so the chances to kick game-winners simply haven't come. The closest Shene has come was a 37-yarder in overtime at Alabama in 2006, one that lost its significance when John Parker Wilson threw a touchdown on the Crimson Tide's overtime possession to beat the Rebels.

"Whenever we kick in practice, we always do scenarios like, 'It's 28-28, three seconds left against Memphis or LSU or anybody,'" Shene said. "I'd really like to have a game-winner this year. I know it seems like a lot of pressure but when you're out there, you don't really think about it until you're done. Hopefully we can have some of those kicks this year."

For a number of reasons, Shene is confident this is going to be the year he gets to experience the thrill of having a game rest on his slim shoulders. First, he's a veteran, and while the luxury of blissful ignorance is no longer possible, experience is "a lot better, because I'm keeping my head down and getting the angle right. Having a little experience is a lot better than not knowing what's going on."

Secondly, Shene is more comfortable with the Rebels' new coaching staff, including head coach Houston Nutt and special teams coach James Shibest.

"It's a lot better because they actually understand that kicking is part of football but we're different," Shene said. "We need to stretch more. We need to warm up more. I remember last year and our freshman year, the coaches wouldn't even let us go warm up at halftime. They made us stay in the locker room and they'd expect (Justin) Sparks to kick 70 yards without warming up. We talked to Coach Shibest and they're going to let us do that. We have a different workout routine from everyone else. We focus more on stretching and getting loose. It's a lot better, a lot better, than what we've had. The coaches understand us a lot better. It seems like all the specialists are a lot more confident this year. I've been pretty happy." (ep)

Shene has rewarded that confidence with a perfect mark so far in scrimmage play, something Nutt has noticed.

"He's been very consistent," Nutt said. "I've been very proud of him. All you can ask of a kicker is for him to be consistent and he has been."

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