|by David Hood|
Those are lofty dreams for a kicker that has attempted a grand total of just ten kicks during his Clemson career, with eight of those being extra points. However, Lakip told TigerNet recently that he watched and learned from Chandler Catanzaro and is ready to take over as The Guy.
Clemson fans were used to and drew comfort in seeing the familiar form of Catanzaro trot out onto the field for a crucial field goal – the game-winner against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl comes to mind – but Lakip was watching, learning and biding his time.
That time is now, and he is ready to be The Guy.
“I’m pretty excited. It’s been three years since I’ve been in a competitive atmosphere as far as being ‘The Guy’ on a team whether it’s soccer or football,” Lakip said. “Three long years. It’s definitely weird but it feels good again. It feels like I’ve got a purpose. I will go that extra mile and work out that extra rep.”
Lakip first visited the Clemson campus back in 2010 as a soccer recruit, but eventually had enough success on the football field to be ranked as the No. 12 kicker nationally his senior season by ESPN. Lakip, who hails from the same high school as former Clemson kicker Mark Buckholz (Chattahoochee), hit 14-of-20 field goals his senior season and 80 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.
However, it didn’t take him long to realize he wasn’t ready to be The Guy.
“Coming in here with all of the hype and stuff, it’s definitely a reality check when you come here and you’re redshirted,” Lakip said. “I definitely wouldn’t have been able to play my freshman year. I was such a raw soccer player. I could kick it far and it looked nice, but I wouldn’t have been able to provide the consistency that Catman provided, so luckily I got to sit behind him and Spencer Benton and Dawson (Zimmerman) even, and they took me under their wing and let me know what’s up and let me know it wasn’t as easy as it looks, because that is what I used to think.”
Lakip played sparingly his first two seasons, and he has hit 1-of-2 field goals and all eight of his extra points. However, the highly-decorated Catanzaro graduated, leaving a hole on special teams according to head coach Dabo Swinney.
“We just lost one of the best kickers in the history of the school, maybe the best in Catanzaro,” Swinney said before spring practices started. “That right there is the question. Who is going to kick?”
Lakip responded with an outstanding spring, and he said he feels comfortable with his snapper and holder.
“First off, it starts with the battery. Sobie (snapper Michael Sobeski) and (holder) Corbin (Jenkins) are awesome,” he said. “It’s like they just pop it to you every time. It’s just been my mindset to come out at every practice and provide focus and intensity. It’s hard during the off-season when you’re not kicking in real games and there isn’t real pressure. You get lackadaisical with your technique, so I’ve been working on that and just making sure it’s a good ball every time.”
Lakip won the starting job in spring practice, and now he can dream about the future.
“I go to bed dreaming about game-winning kicks in Sanford Stadium all the time,” Lakip said. “Obviously I dream about game-winners in every stadium, even here. It’s not going to be much of a homecoming because I didn’t get offered there. A couple of my friends go there, but I am just looking forward to getting out there and contributing again.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org