Posted: Aug 19, 2019
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — A year ago, Cal Poly's kicking game was covered by seniors Casey Sublette and Alex Vega.
This fall, two true freshmen, a sophomore and a redshirt sophomore make up the team of kickers. None has ever kicked a ball in a Cal Poly uniform on game day.
Head coach Tim Walsh is not worried.
"I was just thinking about this at practice. I don't want to jinx it, but we are good and we are deep at kicker," said Walsh.
Entering Fall Camp a little over two weeks ago, true freshman Colton Theaker of Arroyo Grande High School topped the depth chart for kickoffs, field goals and PATs while redshirt sophomore Mitch Souza, a transfer from Fresno City College, headed the list of candidates for punting duties.
Matthew Hoffman, a true freshman from Monte Vista High School in Danville, will back up the pair. Redshirt sophomore Mason Davis, a Durham High School alumnus who is entering his third year at Cal Poly, recently joined the football team as a walk-on and is in the mix as well.
"Both true freshmen are very good," said Walsh. "Colton is probably a little bit ahead because he's a little stronger all the way around. Matt's got a chance to be a good kicker as well. He's really improved every day.
"The guy who has improved in the kicking part of it -- we always knew he could punt -- is Souza," Walsh added. "Mitch is not only booming punts now, but is being a real consistent field goal kicker and a pretty good kickoff guy too."
In Saturday's scrimmage at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, Theaker (pictured at left) was 4-for-5 in field goals, connecting from 20, 27 and a pair of 32-yarders, and concluded the scrimmage with 48- and 52-yard three-pointers. Hoffman added a 48-yarder of his own along with three short field goals while Souza exceeded 40 yards on each of his three punts, including a 48-yarder.
"There's a pretty good battle going on at all kicking positions," Walsh said. "If I had to choose today, it probably would be Mitch punting and Colton on kickoffs and field goals with Colton backing up the punter and Mitch backing up the kickoffs."
Theaker made all of his 45 PAT attempts and was 10 of 15 on field goals with a long of 52 yards during his senior season last year at Arroyo Grande High School. He also averaged 34.1 yards on 28 punts and 63.8 yards on 66 kickoffs with 55 touchbacks en route to a spot on CalHi Sports' All-State Medium Schools First Team.
Hoffman was six of nine on field goals with a long of 41 yards during his senior season at Monte Vista in 2018. He also averaged 35.1 yards with 3.9-second hang time on 23 punts and 62.9 yards with 3.8-second hang time on 45 kickoffs with 30 touchbacks.
A graduate of Buchanan High School in Clovis, Souza (pictured at right) earned first-team All-Valley Conference honors as a punter during his redshirt freshman season (2017) at Fresno City College. He averaged 37.7 yards on 37 punts with a long of 62 yards and also made two of two field goals with a long of 27 yards. A grayshirt in 2016, Souza redshirted at Cal Poly last fall.
Davis produced career averages of 39.4 yards on 140 career kickoffs with a long of 60 yards and six touchbacks and 31.3 yards on 50 career punts with a long of 50 yards at Durham High School, just south of Chico. In addition, he made 68 of 82 PAT kicks and 12 of 20 field goals with a long of 33 yards.
There actually could be a fifth kicker in Fall Camp, if needed.
"The other weapon we have, and we just found out, is Ryan Robards as a punter," said Walsh. "He could add something to our punt game if we decided to use him. Some of the things Ryan brings to the table athletically back there might help us. It would be an occasional adjustment. Mitch is the guy for now."
Robards averaged 42.2 yards per punt with a long of 64 yards and several 50-yarders and 58.2 yards on 105 kickoff with 62 touchbacks as a senior at Elk Grove High School during the 2015 season. He also made six of eight field goals, including four of 40 yards or more.
Oh, and he runs with the football as well. A slot back on Cal Poly's roster, Robards rushed for 2,884 yards and 43 touchdowns, 9.2 yards per carry and 206 yards a game en route to 2015 Sacramento Bee All-Metro Player of the Year honors. He scored 50 touchdowns in all, including two via interception, two on punt returns, one on a fumble recovery and two as a wide receiver.
After one season of baseball at Pacific in 2017, Robards transferred to American River College for the 2017 football season, where he caught 33 passes for 535 yards and five touchdowns. He came to Cal Poly as a slot back in 2018 but did not play in any games as a redshirt sophomore.
Cal Poly opens its 2019 season against the University of San Diego on August 31 at 2 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Children 13 and under receive free admission on Youth Day. In addition, free clear bags will be distributed to the first 3,000 fans in attendance.
For tickets, click here.