More than some improved timing or kickoff distance, Hawaii kicker Scott Enos’ most valuable offseason pickup might have been a figurative one.
A set of blinders.
Though highly touted freshman kicker Tyler Hadden stands next to Enos nearly at all times during Hawaii football fall camp practices, the Warriors senior is looking inward for motivation. At the moment, anyway, all eyes are on him; Hadden is sidelined with a hip flexor.
Enos won the job last fall against fellow junior college transfer Brian Blumberg. But Hadden, out of California High School, was rated the No. 10 college-bound kicker in the nation. And Enos had his share of shaky moments as a junior, particularly on kickoffs. Hadden figures to be the team’s long-term guy — it’s only a matter of when.
Outwardly, anyway, Enos is oblivious to all this. Deliberately so.
"I just gotta compete with myself," said Enos, who was perfect on 34 extra-point attempts last year, but went 12-for-19 on field goals. "Ultimately, I’m the one who has to put it through the uprights. Just trying to be more consistent."
The competition figures to ramp up in earnest once Hadden recovers from the setback that has sidelined him since last Saturday. Before getting hurt, Hadden impressed with his distance and effortless form.
"I really have nothing to lose," said Hadden, who went 13-for-15 on field goals as a senior at CHS. "Scott’s a senior, but I came in to compete. I’m just kind of waiting … now’s time for competition, so it’s kind of hard (to watch from the side)."
While Hadden — who started rehabbing on Thursday — can only work on some technique basics and study special teams formations, Enos has gotten the exclusive reps at practice in kickoff and field goal blocking drills. That’s both good and bad for him; he likes the extra looks, but there’s also a wear-and-tear concern.
Special teams coordinator Chris Tormey exudes patience while the battle is on hold. Of course, he also has to pick a starter before the Sept. 2 opener vs. USC. It’s an election, and Tormey is just waiting to cast his ballot.
"You always want to have competition," the coach said. "(We’ll name a guy) as soon as possible, but we’re not in a hurry to make a decision. The best guy’s gonna play."
His emphasis has been on how quickly his kickers can get the ball off for field goals and PATs in the time between the snap and when the ball is kicked. Under 1.3 seconds is ideal.
"It’s not about how many you make," Tormey said. "Can you get the ball off quickly? Tyler’s really sound fundamentally … Scott’s a lot more comfortable in that regard (than he was).
The incumbent Enos estimated his average time is 1.25 seconds this fall, down from between 1.3 and 1.5 seconds last year. Punter Alex Dunnachie vouched for that.
"That’s a main focus, getting it off on time," said Enos, who’s also worked on his flexibility and height on kicks to get better placement on his kickoffs (six touchbacks last year). His long field goal was from 47 yards.
Enos acknowledged the jump from Sierra Junior College (Calif.) to UH came with some growing pains. Specifically, the much larger crowds at Aloha Stadium and hostile road environments were hard to ignore.
"It was a big change," Enos said. "But as a kicker you can’t worry about what’s going on."
Hadden stood a short distance away as he spoke. Those blinders are coming in handy already.