Going into the 2018 Kentucky football season, we knew replacing senior kicker Austin MacGinnis, the school’s all-time leading scorer, would be no small task.
The two options? Walk-on senior Miles Butler or true freshman Chance Poore.
Butler ended up getting the starting job to start the year, hoping to preserve Poore’s redshirt and give him four full seasons of eligibility. While Butler didn’t have the strongest leg, he was fairly consistent from short and could drill extra-point attempts with ease.
As the season progressed, though, Butler’s max distance of roughly 40 yards or so – his career long – proved to put the Wildcats in a bind on a several occasions. With Poore only allowed to participate in four games before losing his redshirt, the Kentucky coaching staff had to be extremely selective in how they used their big leg off the bench.
Going into the upcoming 2019 season, however, the kicking duties have been completely handed over to Poore. And last night in Kentucky’s annual Spring Game, fans got the opportunity to see the progress the special teams weapon made throughout spring for the very first time.
Called up to the plate for the first time early in the second quarter, Poore lined up for a 52-yard field goal attempt for the Blue squad.
In fact, Poore said after the game that his lone field goal attempt of the day would’ve likely gone in from 62 yards out.
“You know? Probably,” he said. “(Mark) Stoops had a little something to say to me afterward, he said “Good kick.” Laughed it off walking off the field. I don’t know how far back we could’ve gone, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity to get a kick like that.”
While the distance was great and it certainly looked fantastic coming off of his foot, head coach Mark Stoops was quick to admit it’s a little different with zero pressure coming and all the time in the world to get the ball off.
“That was nice to see,” he said. “Obviously no pressure. I didn’t think we got good pressure on that, did we? (Laughter). But it was good to see.”
While it’s obviously easier to make significant judgements in live game settings than scrimmages with no pressure, Stoops did say that the ball looked really good all the way through the goal posts.
Standing right behind the play, the Kentucky head coach said he knew it was in the moment it left his foot.
“He hit it, put a good thump on it,” Stoops said. “I was standing right behind it. You could hear it come right off his foot. It was good to see.”
For Poore, distance is something he’s been working on throughout the offseason and into spring ball. Seeing a 52-yarder go through the uprights as a redshirt freshman, regardless of context or scenario, is a major confidence-booster.
“We’ve been working a lot on kicks this spring, and I’m just glad I had an opportunity to do that, especially in the Spring Game,” he said. “Gives me a little bit of confidence going into the season.”
So what is the ideal scenario for Poore right now from a distance perspective?
“In a game situation, preferably, you want to be confident, and I’m confident 50 (yards) and in,” he said. “But if it’s like a situation in a game where we might need 52 or 53 (yards), we can do that.”
As a true freshman last season, Poore hit two of four field goals, with his longest make coming from 34 yards out. In his two misses, one kick was blocked, while the other was a 51-yard attempt that missed wide right against Tennessee in November.
It wasn’t easy to adjust, but the redshirt freshman thanks his teammates for pushing him through the ups and downs and helping him get to the point where he’s incredibly confident in his abilities going forward as the team’s starting kicker.
“I really appreciate this whole team,” he said. “They’ve just really helped me through this and honestly this is the best team I’ve ever played with. These players, they all help me, my teammates help me a lot and they boost my confidence every day. I appreciate that, that’s how they get me through the season and through the ups and downs. They’re always with me no matter what and I really appreciate that.”