Missouri kicker Tucker McCann kicks and misses

Missouri kicker Tucker McCann kicks and misses during the second quarter against Oklahoma State on Dec. 31 at the 60th AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. McCann is taking on punting responsibilities for the Tigers as well in 2019.

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Perhaps no one can relate to what Tucker McCann is experiencing better than a pitcher.

Yes, a baseball pitcher. And yes, McCann, the senior kicker on the Missouri football team.

While pitchers have a pitch count, McCann has a kick count.

McCann, the returning kicker, is the favorite on the roster right now to replace Corey Fatony at punter this fall. If that wasn’t enough to keep McCann busy, Missouri also plans to have him handle kickoffs. The increased workload has forced the Tigers to rethink how McCann approaches the spring and fall to help him stay fresh and succeed.

“I have to have a pitch count every day,” McCann said. “It is kind of good for me because I need to learn how to trust my leg more and not kick as much as I used to.”

If anyone can manage the kick count and survive the wear and tear, it’s McCann. Missouri special teams coach Andy Hill said the senior kicker takes care of his body as well as anyone else on the team.

This offseason, McCann has focused on functional range conditioning. FRC, as McCann called it, helps activate muscles. He adheres to the mindset that strengthening muscles is best when muscles are sore or hurting. McCann is also trying to strengthen his innermost muscles.

It’s not the first time McCann has taken part in functional range training, but he has bought into it more than ever this offseason. Already, he has noticed a difference.

“You don’t hurt as much,” McCann said. “You’re not as sore. (Without this focus), you get sore, especially two days after a big day of kicking. I don’t really feel as much of that anymore.”

The less soreness and pain for McCann this season, the better for Missouri. Especially because McCann is returning to a position he has not played since high school. He wasn’t too bad, either. Kohl’s Professional Camps ranked him as its No. 5 punter for the Class of 2016 national rating system of punters who attended either the showcase or scholarship camp. That same year, Wake Forest punter Dom Maggio was No. 1 and Texas A&M punter Braden Mann was No. 2.

Hill described McCann as very capable of completing any punting responsibilities. Hill, however, said “we’ll see” when asked if he’s confident in McCann’s ability to punt.

“We haven’t hardly been outside,” Hill said. “We have been outside one time in five practices. It’s really hard to tell when you’re indoors.”

McCann said he is just excited to have the chance again. With Fatony’s automatic and consistent punting for the past three years, the Tigers didn’t need McCann to punt like they do now. McCann is grateful he had the chance to watch Fatony, though.

“He taught me so many things,” McCann said.

McCann had to pause to ponder the most valuable lesson Fatony passed along.

“Trusting your leg,” McCann said. “Just that confidence that he had.”

It’s advice McCann will need for punting and kicking. While jumping into punting again, McCann still has kicking areas in which he — and the coaching staff — want to see improvement.

When asked where McCann needed to improve, the manner in which Hill and McCann responded provided the answer.

They were consistent.

“His goal right now is to just be as consistent as possible,” Hill said.

“I just want to be more consistent. That’s pretty much it. Just be more consistent,” McCann said.

He showed he has power. See his 57-yard field goal against South Carolina. But Missouri wants and needs more than just a few flashes of brilliance and power. McCann finished the 2018 season having converted on 72.7 percent of his field goals, as he made 24 of 33 field goal attempts, according to ESPN Statistics and Information. However, McCann was quite consistent with extra points, converting on 51 of 54 attempts.

“He’s got a strong leg and he’s got great work ethic,” Hill said. “I think his best year is certainly coming down the road.”

Just as long as they can keep that kick count down. He will need to stick to his own version of a pitch count if he wants to become Missouri’s kicking ace.

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.

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