RALEIGH — Kyle Bambard remembers all the missed kicks that sapped his confidence early in his freshman year at North Carolina State. Now he’s working through the Wolfpack’s training camp with competition from a graduate transfer.
Bambard and Connor Haskins are competing for the starting job for a team desperately needing someone to provide reliable production at the end of stalled drives.
“It’s going to be critical just because you’re talking about points on the board,” Wolfpack special teams coordinator Eddie Faulkner said. “We’ll continue to let them compete and obviously we want to get the right guy out there.”
While the Wolfpack’s quarterback battle attracts the most attention, the team is trying to find a starting kicker for the Sept. 1 opener against William & Mary as well as get both ready for the 12-game schedule.
Bambard made 7-of-14 field goals last year, a 50-percent conversion rate that was last in the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision national ranks. He missed three kicks from 39 or fewer yards and didn’t make one longer than 37.
“I’ll be the first to tell you I struggled last year,” Bambard said. “I know the situations I put this team in and I put my coaches in and I put myself in. And I’ll also be the first to tell you that I’ve worked my butt off this offseason to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Bambard missed six of his first nine kicks and said he let the bad start get to him, though he made four of his last five field goals. He said he hopes to build on that by focusing on kicking execution instead of the overall pressure to put one through the uprights.
“My technique wasn’t flawed last year,” he said. “My mindset was flawed.”
Haskins arrived in January to compete for the job after three years at Division II UNC Pembroke. Haskins made 38-of-53 field goals (72 percent) during his career, including long kicks of 48 yards in each of his first two seasons and a 50 yarder in 2014.
He sat out last year ahead of his move to Raleigh for what he called “a great opportunity for both me and Kyle.”
“He’s got years left, I don’t, so I kind of feel like I’ve got to step up immediately and play,” Haskins said. “But I came in here to play. I didn’t come in here to sit the bench.
“We’ve had a good competition. I think both of us are very capable of getting the job done. I’m betting on myself: I think I can get the job done and I want to be out there on Saturdays to play.”