PROVO — When it comes to scoring points, BYU true freshman place-kicker Skyler Southam just might be an offensive weapon who has been underutilized to this point of the season.
Southam has a long-distance field goal range that hasn’t been seen for quite a while in Provo. He kicked a 57-yarder while playing at Wasatch High School.
The last time BYU made a field goal of 50 yards or more was in 2006, when Jared McLaughlin booted a 53-yarder at Air Force.
“I would make a prediction that we’ll have one (of at least 50 yards) this year,” said special teams coach Ed Lamb. “We certainly have confidence in Skyler to attempt those, that’s for sure.”
During the Cougars’ 21-18 loss to California last Saturday, Southam, a 6-foot, 195-pounder from Heber City, was eager to make an impact and that's the attitude he'll maintain as BYU visits No. 6 Wisconsin Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ABC).
I’ll be ready when I get the chance. I try to tell myself that I’ll be ready whenever we cross the 50. I’ll start warming up. You never know when they’ll call on you. – BYU placekicker Skyler Southam
“I told coach Lamb anywhere inside 55 yards, I feel like I can make it every single time,” said Southam, a four-star recruit and 2015 Army All-American. “I know I can make them further than that as well. Inside of 60, I feel pretty confident. I feel very comfortable."
“A really cool thing is he’s been really excited when we get into his field goal range (during games). He’s standing next to me on the sideline saying, ‘Hey, coach, do you trust me right here? Let’s go,’” Lamb said. “I really enjoy that about him — his confidence. He’s ready to go. I feel like he’s a 50-yard kicker. Everybody’s got range up to and outside of 50, but it’s how often they can make it. When he kicks from the high 40s to low 50s, I think he’s in the 70-to-80 percent-or-more consistency. He makes it in that range.“
On its opening drive last Saturday, BYU marched to the Cal 32-yard line. On fourth-and-2, instead of attempting a 49-yard field goal, the Cougars went for it and a rushing attempt failed to get a first down.
Later, BYU had the ball on the Golden Bear 35-yard line but instead of attempting a 52-yard field goal on fourth down, the Cougars went for it again and quarterback Tanner Mangum was sacked.
"We’ve had a couple of opportunities, but I know the coaches are trying to be really aggressive with the play-calling," said Southam, who also kicks PATs. "I’ll be ready when I get the chance. I try to tell myself that I’ll be ready whenever we cross the 50. I’ll start warming up. You never know when they’ll call on you. As a competitor, I just want to get on the field as much as possible. But as long as we’re winning games, I’m fine with kicking PATs. That means we’re scoring points.”
BYU coaches stress the reason that they didn’t attempt field goals in those aforementioned situations against Cal had to do with wanting to be aggressive.
“I have a lot of confidence in (Southam). He’s proven to have a strong leg,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “I don’t doubt his kicking ability. I probably need to let him take some deep shots once in a while here. He’s going to be kicking for us for a long time. If there’s a way we can put points on the board, especially when we’re not doing a lot on the offensive side, we probably need to go that route. We’ll see. But I still like going for it on fourth down.”
“It has absolutely nothing to do with Skyler. We could have the best NFL kicker, and coach Sitake would have still gone for it,” Lamb said. “Coach Sitake wants to instill an aggressive nature in our offense. It was early enough in the game … he wanted to show confidence in our offense. That became such a division for our team last year. The offense was without confidence and he was trying to instill that in them. Kalani would be the first to tell you when something doesn’t work out, it was the wrong choice.”
Southam attempted his first collegiate field goal in the second quarter against Cal when he drilled a 36-yarder to cut BYU’s deficit to 7-3.
“It was a lot of fun. It makes it easy when you have a good snapper and good holder and the line blocked. All I had to do was kick the ball,” Southam said of his first career field goal. “There’s not a big different between kicking in high school and in college. I’m getting an amazing snap and hold every time, so that makes it easier to be consistent.”
After high school, Southam served in the Chile Santiago West mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He returned home last January.
“Because of my mission, it’s made me realize how much I love football. It’s been a blessing to get back into things,” Southam said. “It was definitely kind of frustrating at first trying to figure out how to kick again, but I feel good about how things are going right now.”
Southam grew up playing soccer, but his real love is football.
“I could kick the ball farther than anybody else, so I was always drawn to that,” he said. “Going into my freshman year (of high school), I decided that kicking was something I wanted to pursue. I had a strong leg. Then I got a kicking coach, Dan Zeidman, and I worked with him. He saw a lot of potential with me. He’s helped me become the kicker that I am with my technique.”
While serving in Chile, people thought he was going to play soccer at BYU. Southam tried to explain to them that he played American football, not futbol.
What about that 57-yard field goal he made in high school?
“The game was going into halftime. I actually kicked the laces on it, which means it doesn’t travel as far,” he recalled. “It wasn’t the best kick but it got over the uprights. I felt comfortable from there. In high school I had quite a few over 50 yards.”
Yes, BYU’s 12-year streak without a field goal from at least 50 yards could end sometime this season.
“It’s the same kick from a PAT that it is from 50 yards out,” he said. “That’s my mentality. It doesn’t matter how far it is, it’s the same swing every time.”
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BYU (1-1) at No. 6 Wisconsin (2-0)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT, Camp Randall Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM