To get to know Detroit Lions seventh-round pick Nate Freese, a kicker from Boston College, I sent five questions to Dan Rubin from BC Interruption, SB Nation's Eagles blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Freese:
1. During his final season at Boston College, Freese was perfect on field goals, making all 20 of his attempts. How consistent was he over the course of his entire career?
Freese came into BC with slightly elevated expectations because of the atmosphere around him. Prior to the 2010 season (his freshman year), BC was still an 8-win program, and he was coming into a situation where his predecessor was literally a student in the section who went from being a drunk kid in a cowboy hat to becoming a serviceable kicker after a few years (Steve Aponavicius). So when his freshman-level performance equaled Steve's senior year, it was one of those things where you breathed a sigh of relief that they were finally going to have a legitimate kicker
But it wasn't always like that. He had a bad sophomore year, highlighted by a chip-shot kick off the upright that cost BC a win against Duke. But that whole team was in the process of regressing to the point of missing bowl games, and I think the regression was as much as a combination of factors as it was individual football aptitude.
I think the Nate Freese from his junior and senior year illustrated his consistency and his capabilities much better than his occasional freshman struggles and his bad sophomore year. Even though the team was terrible his junior year, he was automatic from inside 40.
Last year, I think we saw the final breakthrough. He became a real clutch kicker who could blast from anywhere on the field. He was truly automatic in every sense of the word, and he backed it up with expanded punting duties and talents. He became really the only specialist on the roster, and the fact that he wasn't so much a finalist for the Lou Groza Award was a miscarriage of justice.
2. What kind of range does Freese have?
Bearing in mind that he was kicking outdoors in the New England climate, he's pretty much automatic from inside 40, and fans should be confident in his kicks outside 45. I think he's a guy who has good range outside 45, and he kicked a 52-yarder as time expired to beat Maryland. I don't think he's going to be breaking any distance records with 55-yard boots to start his career, but his accuracy is solid.
Extrapolating that to an indoor dome on dry turf, I think Freese will be in there with the solid kickers of the NFL. Statistically, I think he has the chance to be the Jason Hanson-type kicker the team lacked after he retired a year ago.
3. Freese actually missed 3 extra points while at Boston College. Is there any reason to be concerned about this as he heads to the NFL level?
The kick he "missed" during his senior year came on a fluky play during that Maryland game. During a tight fourth quarter in some brutal cold, he had a PAT blocked at the line that got returned the other way for a Terps 2-point conversion. It was one of those plays that made you realize you were watching a very weird game.
He flat out shanked a PAT in that Duke game during his sophomore year, but he was pretty bad during that season and recovered nicely over the next two years. I don't think it's anything Detroit fans really have to worry about.
4. The Lions used their punter as a kickoff specialist last season, but it's unclear if that will continue with the addition of Freese. How did he perform on kickoffs in college?
BC had 12 touchbacks on kicks during Nate's freshman and sophomore seasons combined when punter Ryan Quigley handled most of the kickoff duties. In contrast, Nate had 17 during his junior season alone, then upped that total to 51 last year. He went from being a guy who would kick touchbacks on about 30% to a guy blasting them on about 70%. As the guy who handled kickoffs, field goals, extra points and primarily punting, there shouldn't be any type of concern on him here.
5. How did Freese do in pressure-packed situations with the game on the line?
The kick against Duke during his sophomore year stuck out to me because of how badly it shook the goal post and the sound it made -- I can still hear it to this day, and it still gives me the willies. But, looking back, I think he really needed that game. The shanked extra point, the clang at the end of the game -- BC lost by 1. If he'd "done his job," they'd have won that game.
Since that point, he's become as clutch as BC needed him. Against Maryland, he actually had to kick that 52-yarder twice. The first time he kicked, Terrapins coach Randy Edsall called timeout at the last possible second to ice the kicker. On that first attempt, Freese actually missed it wide but had the distance with room to spare. Given a second attempt, he made an adjustment and kicked the absolute hell out of the ball. It probably would've been good from 55 and up. More importantly, the second kick went right down the middle and wasn't ever in doubt.
BC pretty much gave him 10 seconds to get ready for that kick. It took all of three plays and a 52-yard rush from out of nowhere to set up "field goal range" from a spot he'd never really kicked before, and he blasted it. We've all been beating the drum for him as one of the best kickers in college football, and there's no doubt in our slightly biased minds that Detroit should be very happy with the way he turns out.