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Thursday, October 23, 2014         

WARRIOR FOOTBALL


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Confidence Man

Tyler Hadden is pain free for the first time in nearly two years. His self-assurance has paid off in greater distance and accuracy on field goals and extra points

By Jason Kaneshiro

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The self-assurance Tyler Hadden carries onto the field this season is rooted in what he isn't taking with him when he lines up a kick.

For most of his first two years in Hawaii, Hadden's leg swing was accompanied by a nagging twinge. The aches finally began to dissipate late last year, freeing Hadden to kick with greater authority in his sophomore season with the Warriors.

"There's just a lot more confidence," Hadden said. "Confidence in your body knowing you can do everything you're supposed to do and not have to fight through any pain."

Because, after all, "kicking's all about confidence."

Hadden's first year with the program was sidetracked by a groin injury early in fall camp. Following the redshirt year, he opened 2011 as the Warriors' top kicker but struggled with consistency and a troublesome hip in converting on five of 10 field-goal attempts and 18 of 21 extra points while having three kicks blocked.

"It was pretty frustrating," Hadden said. "I had to keep my faith in God knowing something is going to come through and just gotta fight through it."

Hadden said he finally felt right in the season finale against BYU then concentrated on strengthening his core, hips and lower back in the offseason to better handle the torque exerted in the kicking process.

After sharing place-kicking duties with Kenton Chun for most of last season, he's taken over full-time this fall. He's hit seven of 10 field-goal tries and is 17-for-17 on point-after attempts. He set a career best with a 49-yard field goal against New Mexico on Oct. 13, which also stands as the longest in the Mountain West Conference this season.

He made two more field goals last week against Colorado State, although he'd much prefer kicking for a single point rather than three.

While the UH defense forced three turnovers and two punts in the Rams' five third-quarter possessions, the offense struggled to sustain its drives. Hadden was summoned three times, connecting on kicks from 26 and 43 yards out and missing a 46-yard attempt. The potential points left on the table was a primary point of consternation after the 42-27 loss that dropped the Warriors to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in conference play heading into Saturday's road game at Fresno State (6-3, 4-1).

"I missed a kick and I need to capitalize on that as well. It's a team effort and I need to finish what I need to do," Hadden said.

With improved strength, a rule change moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line and a change in emphasis, Hadden has also increased his depth on kickoffs. He has eight touchbacks in 33 kickoffs so far compared to just two in 73 attempts last season.

"Last year we focused a lot on placing the ball with hang time," Hadden said. "This year (special teams coordinator Chris Demarest) is giving me, ‘we want the ball on this side of the hash rather than saying we want a 5-yard radius.' I'm putting up a lot better hang time and my distance.

"(The rule change) is only 5 yards, but then you're back there lining up for a kickoff, it makes a big difference looking 5 yards closer."

Hadden's enhanced confidence is also based in his comfort in working with the teammates involved in the kicking game. He's quick to credit the line play, long snapper Luke Ingram and holder Cayman Shutter, who has taken over after Scott Harding began the season in that role.

"It's definitely a relationship and we all count on each other," Hadden said.






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