Do you know your long snapper?
Northwestern added a 13th commit to their class Saturday, long snapper Chris Fitzpatrick.
Interesting choice by NU to bring in a long snapper. There's no doubt he's a good one: Chris Rubio, his coach and long snapping expert, has Fitzpatrick ranked No. 7 in the nation at his position. But the question is: how necessary is it to have a long snapper under scholarship?
In my opinion, necessary: Rubio estimated that 90 percent of FBS schools have scholarship long snappers. Last year, NU didn't have a player recruited to play long snapper as a scholarship walkon: they had John Henry Pace, a transfer from Miami, who earned a scholarship as a senior, and Pat Hickey, who, so far as I can tell, is not on scholarship (judging from NUsports.com posts about 2009 signing days and earned scholarships in 2009 and 2010). HIckey started out the year as long snapper on field goals, but was removed from that task as the season went on in favor of Pace. Before that, it was Phil Brunner, who was a walk-on at quarterback before moving to long snapper.
So, why the necessity for a long snapper on schollie? People have, in the past, noted bad snaps leading up to field goal misses by Amado Villarreal and Stefan Demos. Maybe these misses were on the kicker. Maybe they were on the holder.
But there's the off chance that they were poorly placed snaps that didn't give NU's kicker the best chance, and left points on the board, and that's unacceptable. If NU can devote 1/85 of their scholarships to making sure this never, ever happens, I don't have a problem with it. I remember watching a Steelers-Giants game a few years back where the Steelers' long snapper got hurt. They were up two and had to punt in their own territory, but when they subbed in James Harrison to attempt long snapping, it failed miserably: he hurled it over the punter's head for a safety to tie the game, and the Giants scored on the next possession to win. It's a very specific, menial job, but it's a difficult one and if you can ascertain somebody's doing it right, that's worth a scholarship.
Thus, NU had a camp for long snappers (according to Scout) with a scholarship to the best one on the table, after losing a snapper to Notre Dame. And NU got their guy.
I obviously don't know the coaching staff's plans, but this seems like a position where someone can contribute right away. Pace graduated, so there's a logical gap at the LS spot - I don't think this is a position where a redshirt is needed.
And thus goes my saying: if you want your kid to someday be a scholarship athlete or NFL player, begin training them to hurtle balls backwards through their legs as fast as they can from the time they're four. I guess give Chris Rubio a call.
I hope this is the last time I have to write about long snapping for a while.