Watching the Pitt game, I couldn't help but notice that the Irish needed a bit more distance on their kickoffs. Well, help is now on the way in the form of Indiana native Ryan Burkhart, Notre Dame's 13th known verbal commitment.
Burkhart received a call from Coach Weis on Sunday and quickly hopped on board once Weis extended the official scholarship offer.
"He asked me if I wanted to come to Notre Dame," Burkhart recalled later in the afternoon. "I said, 'Yes, definitely.'"Notre Dame had also been after SoCal resident and #1 rated kicker Kai Forbath, who had narrowed his list to ND and UCLA, but it seems that Weis saw enough in Burkhart to deem waiting for Forbath unnecessary.
So far this season Burkhart is 4 for 5 on field goals with a long kick of 53 yards and the miss coming on a 52 yarder. Last season he was 8 of 11 on field goals with 7 of the 8 being 40 yards or greater. More good news on the leg strength of Mr. Burkhart is the fact that 11 of the 13 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks. Yes, they don't kick from the 35 yard line like in college, but one of the kickoffs last Friday went through the goalposts, which easily translates to a collegiate touchback. Oh, and I must admit I like the fact that Burkhart has been kicking in Indiana weather his whole life.
This summer, Burkhart participated in the Ray Guy/Prokicker.com kicking academy, which held 30 camps across the country. Not only did Burkhart place as the top kicker at the Indianapolis camp (ahead of the melodiously-named Tamba Samba), he finished as the top kicker nationally when all of the camp performances were lumped together. Keeping with the kickoff theme, Burkhart broke the kicking academy record for longest kickoff when he booted a 75-yarder during the camp. And while Notre Dame coaches told him he was coming in as a kicker only, it doesn't hurt that Burkhart also rated out as the top punter nationally at the same camp.
Irish fans saw plenty of freshman see the field against the Panthers on Saturday night and it sounds like they won't have to wait long to see Burkhart next year.
"They told him if they took him as a kicker," said NorthWood coach Rich Dodson, "he should plan on kicking off in the Georgia Tech game (ND's opener) in 2006."