Justus finally gets his chance to kick

For three years, the background became a familiar place for Logan Justus.

With two-time All-Big Ten kicker of the year Griffin Oakes, Indiana had little use for his understudy in recent seasons.

Now, Justus is trying to make the most of an opportunity that has been years in the making.

The redshirt junior is off to a solid start as IU’s new placekicker, looking to back up the belief IU coach Tom Allen has placed in him since the start of the season.

“I came in and I knew Griffin was here and he was going to be here for awhile,” Justus said. “So I knew I had to develop and learn a lot from him and take everything in. Once I got comfortable with the atmosphere and everything, I knew I would get an opportunity.”

Justus has appeared in all four games this season, connecting on four of his five field goal attempts and 13 of his 14 point-after tries. He made two against Michigan State last weekend, hitting from 35 and 36 yards and picking up IU’s special teams player of the week honor.

“I knew if I just kept working, the opportunity would arise at some point,” Justus said.

Justus came to IU as a true walk-on in 2015, working behind Oakes all the while. When Oakes graduated after last season, Justus approached the off-season looking to seize the open kicking job.

Then, he followed through.

Justus entered fall camp leaning on his experience in the system and his rapport with long snapper Dan Godsil and holder Drew Conrad to help him get a leg up. Those factors, along with his consistency, propelled him into the starting position.

In doing so, he beat out Charles Campbell, a true freshman on scholarship, and Jared Smolar, a fellow walk-on who transferred to IU from Rutgers. Throughout camp, as Indiana charted every made field goal and noted every miss, Justus emerged as the most consistent option for coach Tom Allen.

“It was a very close competition between Logan and Charles,” Allen said. “It was kind of week-to-week during fall camp and different times of practice. We logged everything and charted everything. I just felt like, when it came down to it, his maturity — even though he hadn’t kicked for us — but just understanding this level and what it takes (put him over the edge). I just had a high level of confidence in him. He proved it.”

Finding a steady replacement who could consistently connect within the 27-to-45-yard range was an offseason priority for Allen. So far, Justus has fit comfortably in the middle of that window.

His two hiccups on the year came in the rainy conditions against Virginia, when he had both a field goal and an extra-point blocked.

“He gets good lift on the ball pretty regularly,” Allen said, “except for that one game when the weather was what it was. He’s got a good, smooth, consistent swing that he replicates every day.”

And finally, after three years of waiting, Justus is getting the chance to show it on Saturdays.

“He got a really big one against Michigan State at a critical time, under duress, which is what you want to see,” Allen said. “You can’t simulate that in practice. I’m really proud of him and happy for him and happy he’s come through for us.”