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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Austin Seibert has bounced back with force in 2017

After a rocky sophomore campaign (as a placekicker, at least) Oklahoma kicker/punter Austin Seibert has become a consistent performer.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma Sooners are having an outstanding and entertaining season, and stars like Baker Mayfield, Mark Andrews, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo are having career years. One player who is having a particularly great season is kicker/punter Austin Seibert. After going through a bit of a sophomore slump last season as a placekicker, the junior is now proving why Lincoln Riley and the team have so much confidence in him. In fact, Seibert was just named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Since his true freshman season, Seibert has handled the dual role of being both the placekicker and the punter. At this level of football, it’s quite rare for a single player to manage both positions, let alone be effective in both areas. Not only has Seibert taken on the separate duties in stride, he has done so while also excelling in the classroom. At the conclusion of last season, Seibert made the Academic All-Big 12 First Team.

However, Seibert’s efficiency on the field took a bit of a step backwards last season compared to his freshman campaign. Coming into the 2017 season, Seibert’s career long for a made field goal was 46 yards, which he converted as a freshman. The next year, Seibert went 0-3 from 40+ yards, and some wondered if he was simply juggling one too many kicking responsibilities.

Fast-forward to last Saturday, and Seibert is now doing things like this:

After making a then career-long 49-yard field goal against TCU two weeks prior, Seibert had the opportunity to attempt a 51-yard kick right before halftime against West Virginia. Seibert gave the ball plenty of leg to power it over the crossbar and sneak it through the left upright. That make actually turned out to be the longest field goal for the Sooners since Michael Hunnicutt made a 53-yard kick in 2011. Even while still handling punts and kickoffs, Seibert is proving that he can be an elite weapon as a placekicker.

As for how he has performed this season in his other roles, Seibert currently leads the nation in total touchbacks on kickoffs with 71 and his 74.7% touchback percentage ranks sixth overall. This is a major key for teams with especially effective kick return units, because Seibert eliminates the possibility of giving up a touchdown on a kickoff by booting the ball through the end zone.

As well as Seibert has performed as a kicker this season, he has been just as effective as a punter. With Oklahoma’s offense as efficient as it is, the punting opportunities aren’t as abundant as they are for other punters across the country. That being said, when Seibert is called upon to flip the field, he has done so time and time again:

This play in particular was one of the more underrated plays of the Red River Shootout (or Showdown, whatever) against Texas. With Oklahoma backed up in its own end zone, Texas was looking forward to a shortened field. However, Seibert wasn’t having any of that. He bombed the ball inside the UT 40-yard line, resulting in a nearly 60-yard punt.

Going into this weekend’s Big 12 Championship game, Austin Seibert has connected on 11 consecutive field goals and is 86.7% on the season. If Oklahoma is destined to reach the College Football Playoff this year, odds are good that Seibert’s leg will be relied upon at some point in a critical moment. If that’s the case, I’m sure Seibert can handle it.

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