Oakes takes a breath, counts to 3

To correct the inconsistencies that dogged him, to fix the struggles he couldn’t seem to shake, Griffin Oakes has leaned on a three-step plan for rebirth after a forgettable 2016 season.

Step No. 1 involved improved conditioning.

Step No. 2 concentrated on a more positive mindset.

Step No. 3 focused on better mechanics.

It all combined to a refined approach for the senior kicker, who is now enjoying the best stretch of his career midway through his final season.

The Greenwood native hit two field goals in last week’s 27-20 loss to Michigan, including one from 46 yards that sent the bout to overtime.

In a key moment for the Hoosiers, Oakes delivered a reminder of the player he once was and the player he still plans to be. For Oakes, the Big Ten’s Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year Award winner in 2015, that clutch kick was a signal that he is, indeed, back to form.

“It was kind of one of those kicks that was a long time coming,” Oakes said. “Everyone saw the struggles I had every now and then through things.”

A topsy-turvy 2016 season, during which Oakes made merely 16 of his 26 field goals attempts, seemed to stem from his final kick of 2015 — a controversial overtime miss in the Pinstripe Bowl.

One of the lasting moments from that game, a 44-41 loss to Duke, involved an incredulous Oakes standing on the turf at Yankee Stadium, pleading with the officiating crew to review his overtime attempt that was ruled no good after it sailed over one upright.

“It kind of hung (with him) throughout the whole season last year,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “We talked about that and how that negatively affected him. He agreed.”

With that, Oakes agreed to flush the unchangeable result and forge ahead.

Having been a special teams coach in the past, Allen learned that one of the most effective ways to tutor a specialist is by coaching a mindset. Most, if not all, college specialists have their own personal coaches who can pinpoint technique, teachers who have gotten them to this level.

Allen, meanwhile, feels most effective reinforcing confidence in his specialists.

With Oakes, it didn’t stop there.

Allen also wanted his top kicker to cut weight, so he gave him a target number to meet.

Oakes said Tuesday that after losing 25 pounds this off-season, he feels smoother, quicker and lighter.

“I spent ungodly amounts of time on the treadmill,” he said. “No one told me, but I guess my weight got away from me last year and that kind of affected my health and everything. So I made it a huge goal of mine to just lose as much weight as I could through the off-season, get as strong as I could, work all the little things out that could possibly affect me throughout this year, and I’ve been very pleased with how my body’s been handling it so far.”

Mostly, Oakes is pleased with how his teammates have carried him to this point.

The third step of Oakes’ off-season involved tweaking his mechanics. As a whole, Indiana’s coaching staff took a big-picture look at how the Hoosiers could solve some of the protection and holding problems that also affected their field goal unit in 2016.

Oakes rotated between two holders, punter Joseph Gedeon and receiver Mitchell Paige, while trying to find the right balance.

This year, backup punter Drew Conrad has teamed with Oakes and long snapper Dan Godsil to bring stability to the field goal team.

“They’ve honestly been my saving grace through this entire year,” Oakes said. “I’m just kicking the ball. They’re doing a job that’s kind of going unnoticed. I really think people need to start paying attention to that, because that’s a huge part of everything.”

A huge part of Oakes’ climb to the top of Indiana’s program leaderboard, too.

With his successful 51-yard kick last month at Virginia, Oakes became IU’s all-time field goal leader. He’s now the first IU kicker with 60 field goals, and enters Saturday’s game at No. 18 Michigan State having connected on seven of his eight field goal attempts — the lone miss a block due to busted protection — and each of his 21 extra-point tries.

On Saturday, when he nailed his 46-yarder in the fourth quarter, Oakes felt release.

The plan had worked.

“I loved every bit of it,” Oakes said. “It was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

4 comments

  1. It is good to have the dependable kicker back that is Oates. He is showing more accuracy than last year aand I hope it continues as it will help IU win a game they would otherwise lose.

  2. v13- The kick to his name is no good! You were wide right (‘t’ being to the right of ‘k’). It’s ‘Oakes’.

    Easy way to remember it’s Oakes and not Oates….? Think of ‘k’ as in kicker.

  3. H4H, I remember his name but my typing skills don’t always keep up with my brain – I have noticed I often don’t add the ‘nt to a verb giving the wrong meaning. For anyone that doesn’t know his name though K for kicker is as good way to remember his name.

  4. No biggie, v13. I only have a vast amount of years playing and watching sports as my means to pretend I belong in the intricacies of your football discussions. I’ve got to make a desperation tackle somewhere. I was just havin’ some fun with you.
    vesuvius13 81
    Harvard 3

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