While the NFL debates the future of the kicking game, one cannot say enough about the impact of kickers in the Garden State this year. New Jersey's high school class of 2013 has no shortage of talent among specialists. NJ Varsity recently caught up with the region's authority on specialists, former Rutgers kicker Lee McDonald of Special Teams Solutions, who offered insight on the state's top performers.
Leading the way is Temple bound kicker Jim Cooper from Mainland Regional. Jim recently broke the career field goal record with 33 kicks and will be representing the East squad at the US Army All-American Bowl January 5th on NBC.
"Jim is the best kicker the Northeast has seen in several years," says McDonald. "He has all the tools including a combination of great leg strength, accuracy and poise."
According to McDonald, Chris Gulla of Tom's River North High School is perhaps the best combination kicker/punter in the state this year.
"Chris is solid on field goals, kickoffs and punts and possesses just about everything a DI coach could want in size, leg and demeanor."
Gulla is garnering attention from Maryland, Penn State and Virginia Tech among others.
Ramapo High School's David Bonagura is coming on strong and capped a phenomenal senior year by drilling a game winning 48 yarder to clinch the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 state title versus Sparta.
"David has an out of this world leg and being relatively new to kicking, is just starting to scratch the surface," says McDonald.
Bonagura also handled kickoff and punting duties for Ramapo this season and is being courted by several division one programs including Fordham, Central Connecticut and Bryant.
Markus Colon, who helped lead Allentown High School to the second round of the playoffs and its best season in years, is the most underrated kicker in the state. A weapon on all three skills, Colon is being recruited by several division one schools including UMASS, Old Dominion and Western Carolina.
"Marcus is a game day performer who is deadly accurate," says McDonald. "Has worked extremely hard to get where he is and possesses a solid leg on all three skills."
Matt Kassebaum of Immaculata is another key specialist who helped his team reach the Group 2 Non-Public state finals.
"Matt has a cannon for a leg with tremendous upside," says McDonald.
Kassebaum is getting attention from the likes of Penn State, UPENN and Elon.
Other notable senior standouts include K Connor Ryan of Middletown South, P John Hinchen of Upper Saddle River, P Eric Haenggi of Kingsway Regional, K/P Bryan Rafano of St. Josephs Metuchen, P Hayden Fromm of Hunderton Central, K Young Hoe Koo of Ridgewood, and K/P Garrett Federico of Colts Neck.
Many of the state's top kickers, punters and long snappers will put their skills on display at the 9th Annual STS College Exposure Camp December 27-28 at Total Turf Experience in Pittman, NJ. All high school specialists are welcome. Visit www.stscamps.com for more information.