When the Oregon Ducks released their first organizational chart of fall camp, one position being listed as co-starters came as a surprise to many: kicker.
Redshirt sophomore Henry Katleman and true sophomore Camden Lewis are listed as co-starters indicating a neck-and-neck race. The results on the field last season said anything but, however.
Katleman took over kicking duties from Lewis for the Ducks' final four games, hitting all four field-goal attempts (21, 33, 40, and 47 yards) and all 13 extra points. Lewis missed three of his four field-goal attempts last season with his lone make coming on a 23-yard attempt. He did make all 15 extra points.
"Quite honestly, the kicking competition has been real," Head Coach Mario Cristobal told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "Katleman wins it at the end of last year, in the springtime he wins it, but Cam comes back and I believe he has hit 37-of-40 in camp."
Lewis connecting on 92.5% of field goals during fall camp would be a massive improvement for a career 55.5% kicker.
"If you're going to make competition real you've got to make it real and you got to let it play itself out."
Ever since taking over the Oregon program, Cristobal has embedded a culture of competition at every level on the depth chart. Allowing the starting kicker position be up-for-grabs is only fair, even if highly surprising to many outside the program.
Cristobal added Katleman hit a field goal during the two-minute portion of practice Wednesday but did not mention the distance.
Regardless of the kicking competition result, Lewis will at least see playing time as the kickoff specialist with him listed as the lone starter according to the depth chart. Last season, he totaled 2,248 yards on 39 kickoffs with six touchbacks.
Additionally, 5-star freshman Dontae Manning and redshirt freshman Trikweze Bridges are battling to start opposite All-American candidate Mykael Wright. DJ James was the heavy favorite to win the job before his suspension, granting the two freshmen ample opportunity to win the job.
"Really pleased with the way those guys are coming around," Cristobal said in reference to Bridges and Manning. "They're just doing a really good job. I'm glad they're making it difficult because it means they're competing well and we have confidence in those guys to do a good job."
The two freshmen have been enjoying the competition, too.
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"It's been fun," said Bridges.
"It's a battle every day," added Manning. "We just go out there and compete every day and go from there."
Both players project to see lots of snaps Saturday with Rod Chance rotating cornerbacks in and out to keep guys fresh.
Ducks fans will get to see the winner of the position battles on Saturday, when the Ducks host Fresno State at 11:00 a.m. at Autzen Stadium.
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