"All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."
Jaques, As You Like It, 2.7.139-143
Long before millennials began their insatiable quest for meaning and purpose, Shakespeare succinctly summarized the extent of human existence, and then completely turned that notion upon it’s head. Some may not like framing humanity in such cold, calculated terms. As You Like It is arguably the lightest and happiest work in the entire Shakespeare canon. At it’s root, it explores the many facets of life and it’s endless complexities, yet manages to always find a way to come down on the positive side of things. The threat of war is thwarted by a holy man. It’s about life and celebration and love and that maybe, just maybe, everything will all turn out alright.
Which is why Jaques serves as the perfect foil. Jaques is the miserable old wretch of the entire comedy. He’s an ideal contrast to the play’s main protagonist, Rosalind. Rosalind is effervescent, optimistic and charming. Jaques is melancholic, cynical and offputting. In that context we see that Jaques’ moralizing of the human condition is a thought to be mocked. No, humanity can’t be simply reduced to players on a stage playing their role.
In most environments, a kicker is a tried and true "role player." But not in Baton Rouge, where kickers are over-the-head fake fg pitch receivers and touchdown scorers. Kickers aren’t just a role, they are rich and interesting and fun. Connor Culp is just the latest edition.
How Did We Get Here?
If there is any indignity in being a kicker, it when recruitniks rebel at the announcement of your commitment. Recruiting is the largest cottage industry under the college football umbrella. Fans pays hundreds of dollars yearly to premium sites to get the most up to date behind the scenes information. Most of which is rumor floating, but there’s also interesting tidbits that get dropped throughout the process. Fans have a vested interest in seeing their recruits ranked highly. It’s why I’ll never rebel against the notion of the "Bama Bump." Yes, it’s real. But there’s an LSU bump, a Texas bump, a USC bump, an Ohio State bump too. Why? It’s pretty simple. This is their business model. I do believe recruiting sites largely aim for accuracy, but there’s a reason their rankings formulas are proprietary.
Lost in this shuffle are the kickers. Never ranked more than 3 stars, hardcore recruitniks like to immediately question why Coach would waste a scholarship on a kicker when there’s a 5-star DT out there ready to commit. Billy mentioned this very rationale in his commitment write-up for Culp. The answer is partially that the 5-star DT probably is not ready to commit. But it’s also that kickers have immense value. Everyone gripes about recruiting kickers and then, in turn, gripes when the kickers aren’t good. Kicking is a skill too. And few teams have had as much success identifying quality kickers as LSU has under Miles. This spans multiple recruiting and special teams coordinators as well.
As with most kickers, there’s not a ton to the recruiting backstory. Kickers don’t get press coverage. They emanate from the mist and typically fade right back into obscurity. There’s a couple of notable kicking coaches across the country that most of the programs use to source and scout their kickers for them. Culp was a Chris Sailer mentee. Sailer’s review of Culp is glowing. But I will note, Sailer’s reviews are more like your wife’s friend that’s wrapped up in some shitty pyramid scheme. Every single one of them is a testimony of how player x will change your life. I’m sensationalizing, but the publicly presented assessments tend to be very flowery.
Culp pulled the trigger in August. In December he was named to the Army All-American High School Game after another player was injured. There was no drama involved. Culp signed uncermoniously in February and reported a few weeks back with the rest of the incoming freshmen.
What Can He Do?
Strengths: He kicks football like Kurt Sloane kicks Tong Po’s head.
Weaknesses: He is wanted for murder in 46 states due to his lethal kicking leg.*
*He’s not actually wanted for murder, guys. This is just me having a little fun.
A lot. News broke a couple weeks back that LSU elected not to renew Trent Domingue’s scholarship. Domingue was last season’s primary kickoff specialist, but also settled into the FG role when Delahoussaye struggled. He’ll be most remembered as a hero in the Florida game. That throws the door wide open for Culp to come in as a true freshman and assume a role on a national championship contender. Miles has specifically mentioned Culp as an early contributor, and I don’t think the timing of the Domingue news is irrelevant. Culp showed up and the coaches got to see him kick a few times and feel confident he can do the job well. I fully expect him to be the KO guy come Wisconsin.
I formerly had high hopes for Cameron Gamble. Gamble has a big leg, but never seemed to put it together enough to earn the coaches trust. It’s likely Delahoussaye wins back the FG kicking role this season, at least to start. Beyond that the only competition for that role would be Gamble and true freshman walk-on Jack Gonsulin. It’s not out of the question that Culp pulls double duty in time, though I assume they will try to keep his role as the KO specialist in focus for the time being. If LSU struggles to find an answer on FGs, he could be asked to try that role. It’s also possible he could be the long man to another kicker assuming short duties.
The world’s not a stage, but Connor Culp will play a role. And that role begins now.
High End: All Conference Kicker
Low End: Cannot lock down specialist role
Realistic: KO specialist for his career