PREP FOOTBALL: Jolliffe, Fennell welcoming kicker competition
Finding one competent kicker can be hard to find. Columbia has two.
Garrett Fennell and Aidan Jolliffe are pumped for this coming season as they return to the field after promising campaigns in 2017. As the 2018 season draws closer, both continue to compete with each other for playing time, in a competition that's likely to roll into the season.
But in this position battle, there's been no friction – only support on both ends.
"It's actually nice to have somebody to work with, not being by myself all the time," Fennell, the incumbent kicker, said. "It brings out the competition."
Last season Fennell opened as the team's starting kicker before he suffered a quad injury in the early weeks of the season, sidelining him for most the year. Jolliffe, a junior varsity call-up, stepped in for Fennell and made an impact immediately. Jolliffe remained the team's starter until Fennell returned from injury in time for the state playoffs last season. This time around Jolliffe says he feels much more comfortable with the system, entering his first full varsity season ready to go.
"It really helped," the sophomore said of the experience last year. "It really took down my nerves."
Jolliffe looks to build on his breakout freshman year, spending the last several weeks of the 2017 season as Fennell's understudy. He finished with four made field goals and over 20 made conversion kicks. Since then, the two have forged quite the friendship, constantly working out together and giving each other pointers.
Both players are eager to get on the field in whatever capacity they can, wither that's punting, kicking field goals or being placed on kickoff duty.
"You definitely got to keep your eyes on it," Columbia head coach Brian Allen said about the kicker competition. "As this training camp unfolds, when it gets to a point where it's super close, you usually (lean) on the side of the upperclassmen. But you look back to last season and (Jolliffe) stepped up and played outstanding. The beauty of the whole thing is there's one, two, three phases of the (placekicking) deal that somebody is going to be a little better than the other at."
Allen says he expects Fennell and Jolliffe to be used in similar ways as they were at the end of last season, with both players entering the game at any given time.
"Consistency is the big thing," the eighth-year coach said. "They both can kick…At the end of the day, if one outshines the other in one area, there's two other areas where we're going to enable someone else to kick. It's a good problem to have."
In the meantime, the grind continues for both kickers as they strive to be at their best when the season opener rolls around in a few weeks. Fennell, who spent the summer at kicking camps in Daytona, says he strives to increase his distance.
Jolliffe, who plans to attend a camp in Tampa soon, wants to improve on his form as well as the long ball. Together, the kickers look to uplift the special teams unit and provide Columbia with a couple extra weapons to its already-loaded arsenal.