Wisconsin Badgers K Nathanial Vakos has had a season to remember. This season, Vakos is 12-14 (85.7 percent) on field goals and a perfect 22 out of 22 on extra points. On Thursday, Vakos was named a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award, an honor for the nation’s best placekicker.
Vakos is the first Wisconsin kicker to be named as a semi-finalist to the Lou Groza Award watchlist since Taylor Mehlhaff received the honor twice in the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Since Rafael Gaglianone graduated in 2018, the program has had a difficult time finding a kicker to fill his shoes.
In Dec 2022, when Luke Fickell was hired at Wisconsin, he hit the ground running on the transfer portal. Fickell filled in gaps at wide receiver, quarterback, offensive line, and most importantly kicker.
Games can be won and lost by special teams. When there’s a close game, a competent kicker can make all of the difference, and that’s certainly been the case for Vakos this year for the Wisconsin Badgers.
How important has Nathanial Vakos been for the Wisconsin Badgers?
Nathanial Vakos has been the most impressive transfer for the Wisconsin Badgers this season. Which is not something anybody expected before the season started. In his opportunities, Vakos has delivered, and only that, but Vakos hasn’t had as much of an opportunity to consistently kick field goals.
Last season, in his only year at Ohio, Vakos went 22 of 27 (81.5 percent) and 49 of 50 on extra points. Since Tanner Mordecai went down with a hand injury against Iowa on Oct 14, Wisconsin has struggled to move the ball with new freshman QB Braedyn Locke, so recently, there hasn’t been much of an opportunity for Vakos to kick.
This season, Vakos is perfect from kicks that are from 19 to 49 yards, but he has struggled to kick from distance as he’s 1 of 3 from kicks 50 plus or longer.
Vakos is only a sophomore, so he has time to turn himself into one of the elite kickers in College Football, but based on how the 2023 season has gone so far. When it’s all said and done, Vakos will be one of the greatest kickers in Wisconsin Badgers football history, joining the elite ranks of Taylor Mehlhaff, Rafael Gaglianone, Phillip Welch, and Mike Allen.
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