In Ed Orgeron’s first season as the full-time head coach, he tried a piece-meal approach to special teams. He hired former New Orleans Saints’ special teams coach Greg McMahon as an analyst and split the full-time duties among other members of the staff. Jack Gonsoulin and Connor Culp split the kicking duties as well.
The overall bag was mixed — coverage and returns improved — but the actual kicking game actually cost LSU a couple games. Namely Troy and the bowl game against Notre Dame. Culp managed to make a few big kicks, namely including some big ones against Auburn, but he and Gonsoulin missed some noteworthy short kicks. So once Orgeron was able to bring McMahon on as a full-time coach, he charged him with finding a quick fix with graduate transfer Cole Tracy. In short, it was a rousing success, as Tracy basically went out and had the best single season of any kicker in LSU history, including the first ever walk-off field goal in program history to beat Auburn.
But knowing that Tracy was one-and-done for Baton Rouge, Orgeron and McMahon knew they’d have to replace him. Enter Cade York.
McMahon initially pushed for Will Reichard, who would finish as the nation’s No. 1 kicking prospect, and hosted him on a couple of visits. He eventually committed to Alabama, and LSU moved very quickly to offer and take the commitment of York.
York was voted as the No. 2 kicking prospect by Kohl’s Professional Camps, one of the national scouting services that colleges use to scout kickers, punters and long snappers. LSU had previously worked with Chris Sailer under Les Miles. Kohl’s works with Under Armour and sent both York and Reichard to the All-American Game.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
247 Composite Rating: ***
247 Composite Ranking: .8271
York finished as the fourth-rated kicker behind Reichard, Texas A&M’s Caden Davis and West Virginia’s Kolton McGhee. He did play in the Under Armour All-American Game, kicking a game-record 59-yarder. He made nine of 11 kicks his senior season at Prosper High School in Prosper, Texas.
Here’s where I pretend to know how to scout a kicker, right? I have to say, I like that he handled punts and kickoffs as well, and you can clearly see that York can put some oomph behind the ball. I know enough about punting to at least know that he’ll have to learn to get the ball out a little faster should he do it in college. But chances are he’s only doing it for LSU in an emergency situation.
This much I do know — kicking is 100-percent mental. You can kick all the 50- or 60-yards you want in practice, and you can hit all the trick shots and crazy angles that you want. What it just comes down to is can you focus on your mechanics and hitting the ball the way you want in a 100,000-seat stadium with an SEC defense bearing down on you.
That was Cole Tracy’s real talent. And no matter what any of us, no matter what anybody on the LSU staff thinks — we won’t know until York is asked to do the job.
McMahon and Orgeron have made no bones about it this summer. They expect York to take over the field goal kicking duties right out of the chute and replace the best kicker in LSU history. No pressure, kid.
Gonsoulin and Culp will still be around as insurance, and Avery Atkins will still handle kickoffs. But York’s getting the first crack at the job.
High End: York becomes a consistent, reliable place-kicker on extra points and field goals inside of 35-40 yards.
Low End: The moment proves to big for York. He rotates with Culp and Gonsoulin until the coaching staff can find a more regular replacement.
Realistic: Hopefully, LSU won’t need any heroics from York early on. Certainly nothing like a walk-off in Jordan Hare. He nails his extra points, and we’ll see from there.