Zebras’ McGehee commits to Purdue

Few kickers receive full-ride scholarship offers from Division I schools, but Pine Bluff High School’s Austin McGehee received one from Purdue on Wednesday.

McGehee visited the West Lafayette, Ind., campus on Friday and gave the Boilermakers a verbal commitment the same day.

“It’s a sigh of relief,” McGehee said about giving the verbal commitment. “I honestly don’t think there is a place out there that’s a better fit for me.”

Purdue was the only full-ride offer McGehee received, although, Arkansas offered him the chance to be a preferred walk-on.

“You have to have a little luck and a lot of blessing,” McGehee said about the recruiting process. “If you are good enough, they will find out about you.”

According to 247sports.com, as a junior, McGehee was 14-for-18 on field goals, 66-for-68 on extra points, his punts averaged 44 yards and 61 of his 79 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

McGehee said he has learned a lot from working with Scott Blanton, a former kicker with the University of Oklahoma and the Washington Redskins.

“He took me from a good player to a great player,” McGehee said of Blanton. “I have to give him all the credit.

“If I ever need to I’ll drive down to Dallas for the weekend and spend it kicking with Scott.”

Pine Bluff coach Bobby Bolding said the kind of instruction McGehee, who earned 6A All-State honors this past season, has received from people like Blanton is huge for a kicker.

“He’s just not going to get the instructional level here that he would be able to get elsewhere,” Bolding said. “We can provide the instruction for everybody else, but kickers are different.

“There just aren’t that many coaches who can teach the soccer-style kicking.”

Bolding said McGehee has a great work ethic, but that work ethic might have led him to kick too much this past season.

“He kicks a lot on his own,” Bolding said. “We probably over-kicked him last year, so we are going to reduce that a little bit this year.”

To achieve this Bolding and his coaching staff decided to take the approach of coaches in a different sport.

“We are mainly going to adjust what he does in practice,” Bolding said. “We’re going to treat him like a baseball pitcher and count his kicks.”

“I like the idea,” McGehee said. “My motto is: ‘Work smarter not harder.’”

Bolding said that McGehee, who has only spent one season with Pine Bluff after transferring from Star City, made a huge impact on the Zebras’ gameplan.

“During the five seasons before (we got McGehee), we lost eight games that we would have won if we had had a kicker,” Bolding said. “Going for two (point conversions) and going for it on fourth-and-1 when we should have had a chip-shot field goal.”

Despite his full scholarship, McGehee said he likely will not handle the starting kicking duties until his junior season with the Boilermakers, because the team has three kickers already on the roster — Paul Griggs, Sam McCartney and Thomas Meadows — who will be juniors when he arrives.

However, McGehee believes he will be the starting punter and handle kickoffs when he joins Purdue in 2014, because senior punter Cody Webster will be entering his final season of eligibility this fall.