FAYETTEVILLE -- Connor Limpert didn't do much in the University of Arkansas' Red-White football game last spring to impress the team's new coaching staff.
Limpert started the game by hitting a kickoff out of bounds. Later he was wide right from 32 yards on his only field goal attempt.
"I definitely thought I could have done a lot better, but that's what fall camp is for," Limpert said. "You get another shot to show yourself to the coaches -- especially with this new staff -- and I think I've done a great job."
Limpert, a junior from Allen, Texas, is confident he's done well enough to be the No. 1 placekicker -- a job he took over in the third game last season -- and handle kickoffs for the third consecutive year.
"I believe that I will do both," he said. "I think I deserve both and I've been hitting the ball good enough to start on both."
In recent practices Limpert has resembled the kicker who hit 8-of-9 field goal attempts last season, including a 34-yarder with four seconds left to lift the Razorbacks to a 39-38 victory at Ole Miss.
"Anytime you have a guy that's experienced and he's already been in a battle, you have a tendency to lean on a guy like that a little bit more because he's gone through it," Arkansas Coach Chad Morris said "So, we've challenged him on just being more consistent in everything and the way he approaches every day. I'm excited to see what he can continue to do."
Limpert has been perfect on short and medium-range field goals in preseason practice.
"I haven't missed inside the 40 and that's going to be my goal [for the season]," Limpert said. "My goal honestly is to never miss."
Limpert also has shown his leg strength. In a scrimmage two weeks ago he hit field goals of 56 and 52 yards.
"The 52-yarder was in a game-winning situation," he said. "It was a good feeling for sure."
Morris said earlier this week that Limpert ended a two-minute drill by hitting a game-winning field goal.
"I think he has come on probably about the last six or seven practices," Morris said. "We've had some live situations in our scrimmages -- probably more live on field goals than we anticipated --and I've been pleased with him. Consistency in critical moments is what the whole thing is about."
Limpert has been kicking well with a new holder in sophomore quarterback Jack Lindsey and new snappers in junior George Madden and redshirt freshman Jordan Silver.
"I'm actually feeling really good now that I'm in the groove with my holder and my snapper," Limpert said. "I'm feeling really good about coming into the season."
Lindsey is the unquestioned top holder, but Madden and Silver have both worked as first-teamers.
"We've got a great battle going on at our deep snapper," Morris said. "We'll just keep working those guys."
Limpert said the snappers have earned praise from Tanner Burns, the Razorbacks' quality control special teams coach.
"They're neck and neck every day," Limpert said. "Tanner Burns feels confident in both of them and said he could throw [either] in the game right now and he'd have great confidence in them."
Morris said Lindsey has done a good job getting the ball ready to kick even if the snap if off target.
"Jack takes unbelievable pride in that position," Morris said. "He's impressed me, especially dealing with some snaps that are high or low or on the ground and he's having to deal with them."
Limpert appreciates Lindsey's ability to stay cool under pressure.
"If the ball skips back to him he's great about trapping it and picking it up to kick so I don't have to really slow down my steps at all," Limpert said. "He's been consistent with that."
Having Lindsey hold on kicks also provides the coaches more options for trick plays.
"Jack is a young man that had a good spring at quarterback," Morris said. "He definitely allows us to do several different things back there."
Junior Blake Johnson, who averaged 38.6 yards on 59 punts last season, and freshman Reid Bauer have done well in recent practices, Morris said, and their competition is continuing.
Senior wide receiver Jared Cornelius, back to full speed after missing the final nine games last season because of an Achilles tendon injury, is the top punt returner. He has averaged 9.6 yards on 28 career returns.
"Jared has fielded a lot of our punts during camp and been very consistent," Morris said.
Sophomore De'Vion Warren averaged 26.4 yards on 29 kickoff returns last season, including a 100-yard touchdown against Auburn.
"I think De'Vion's proven to be very electric back there," Morris said. "So I'm anticipating watching him in a true live action."
Kickoff returners might not get as many opportunities this season because of a new rule that allows receiving teams to make a fair catch between the goal line and 25 and take possession at the 25 -- the same result as a touchback.
"I think everybody is trying to figure out what they're going to do," Morris said before the start of camp. "I know this, that now with being able to fair catch it, you'd better put some sure-handed guys back there that can catch. If you're going to call for the fair catch, you'd better be able to catch it and get the ball on the 25.
"We've got an idea of the way some people are going to play it, but I really don't want to dive too deep into some schemes of how we're going to do it."
Limpert, who had 21 touchbacks on 66 kickoffs last season, said he's ready to hit the ball deep if that's what he's asked to do.
"I have one mindset," he said. "That's to kick it out of the end zone."
Morris said Arkansas has to excel on special teams.
"We need at least three units to be in the top 10 or 15 in the country," Morris said. "That's an area I've challenged the entire staff in."
Limpert said he's confident in the special teams.
"I think we're all going to be good this year, especially because both of our punters had their best days of camp the last scrimmage," Limpert said. "I like our return teams, and we have some dogs on our coverage teams. We've got some fast guys on there that are going to be flying down the field knocking some heads off for sure."
Limpert is a walk-on, but hopeful of being awarded a scholarship.
"They haven't said anything yet, but I know they have two [scholarships available]," Limpert said. "I'm just trying to let it all play out."
Sports on 08/24/2018
Special teams at a glance
RETURNING STARTERS PK Connor Limpert, P Blake Johnson
LOSSES DS Robert Decker, PK Cole Hedlund, H Reid Miller, PK Blake Mazza
WHO’S BACK DS Jordan Silver, DS George Madden
WHO’S NEW H Jack Lindsey, PK Preston Stafford, P Reid Bauer, PK Christopher Lopez, P Chad Stephens
ANALYSIS Limpert gives the Razorbacks a veteran placekicker who showed last season that he could hit pressure field goals. He figures to handle kickoffs for the third consecutive season. Johnson needs to show a stronger and more consistent leg on punts. His experience should help him keep the job, though Bauer is providing strong competition, according to the coaches. Lindsey has impressed the coaches with his consistency and good hands as a holder. Silver was listed as the backup deep snapper last season, though he didn’t play in any games.
Print Headline: Keeping it steady: Limpert maintains consistency in fall