- - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — It’s a mixed blessing to have the nation’s second-best kicker, as Virginia coach Mike London will attest.

On one hand, it means the Cavaliers are having to settle for field goals far too often, especially in the red zone.

It’s a positive, though, that Robert Randolph can be counted on to knock his kicks through when opportunities arise, something he’s done 10 of 11 times this season. The only kicker to make more field goals is Florida’s Caleb Sturgis, who is 11-for-11.

Randolph, a senior, is getting the opportunity to cap an eventful career at U.Va. by leading the national ranks. After being named a finalist for the Lou Groza award in 2009, there was a dramatic drop-off in the U.Va. kicking game in 2010 as a new holder presented problems early.

“I just didn’t really have the confidence in the whole operation, or I guess in myself,” Randolph said. “Things hadn’t been going as well. But you have to be confident that you’re going to make every kick.”

As a kicker, Randolph operates on an island. He works with the long snapper and holder during practice, but the group mainly works independent of the coaching staff.

Randolph goes to summer kicking camps and has a kicking coach he can call in Florida, his home state, but that’s about it.

“I don’t know how to coach them or teach them,” London said. “All I can do is encourage.”

The coach added with a laugh that kickers “are a little different.” Randolph, like most kickers, comes from a soccer background.

He played from the time he was 4 until giving it up his junior year of high school to focus on kicking for football, which he felt would give him a better chance of getting to play for a big-name college.

It’s not soccer that he compares his craft to, though.

“We relate a lot of it back to golfing,” he said. “Just how they swing and their tempo. It’s more about how smooth you are instead of how much power you have.”

Randolph is a golfer, saying that he can shoot in the 80’s on most days.

Despite all the accolades, he’s perhaps best known for a bright-yellow suit that he wears to some road games.

He hasn’t broken it out this year, saying that he’ll wait until the Miami and Florida State games, which many of his family members will be able to attend.

By that time, he could be drawing national buzz as one of the nation’s top kickers.

It all depends, though, on how many opportunities the Cavaliers offense can give him.

• Read Michael Phillips’ U.Va. blog at timesdispatch.com

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