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Breaking Down How Arkansas Will Replace Zach Hocker

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Breaking Down How Arkansas Will Replace Zach Hocker
247Sports
K Cole Hedlund

Your first reaction when reading that headline might have been something like, "Why are you writing an entire article about how a team is going to replace a kicker?" Well, special teams is a huge part of winning football games, and that is often forgotten.

With four-year starter Zach Hocker gone, one of the biggest positions the Arkansas Razorbacks have to fill is at kicker.

Hocker was a major part of the Hogs from 2010-13. During his career, he made 61 of 79 (77.2 percent) field goals, 171 of 173 extra-point attempts and had 354 points. Hocker was also accurate when it came to long field goals, hitting 19-of-30 attempts over 40 yards and 5-of-7 over 50. If it wasn't for a down junior year, all of his numbers would have been much better.

But all that production is now gone, and head coach Bret Bielema has to somehow find a replacement kicker that won't make what has been a strength a weakness.

Going off of the depth chart from HawgSports.com, Hocker's replacement would be the emerging John Henson. Henson has backed up Hocker his whole career and has only attempted three field goals, making two of them, both of which were under 30 yards.

Henson is a capable kicker, and it wouldn't come as a surprise if he won the job, but the starting spot could very well be won 3-star recruit Cole Hedlund, who was a part of the Hogs' 2014 class. 

Rated the No. 2 kicker nationally, Hedlund racked up awards following his senior season, where he connected on 24 of 26 field-goal attempts and all 101 extra points. His accolades included being named an All-American, first-team MaxPreps All-American, first-team All-American by USA Today and an Associated Press Class 3A first-team all-state selection.

Here, you can check out for yourself just how advanced he was as a high school kicker:

When watching his highlights, what immediately stands out is his leg strength. Hedlund hit as long as a 57-yard field goal at the high school level, something that is rarely seen. One of the main parts of a kicker's game when being evaluated during the recruiting process is his leg strength, and Hedlund has no shortage of it.

Accuracy is also an extremely important part of a kicker's game. 

From 2011-13, he converted a very impressive 56 of 66 (84.8 percent) field goals. A field-goal percentage of 85 is enough to raise coaches' eyebrows from across the country. He gives Bielema and the Hogs a reliable kicker that they can send out with the game on the line and expect to hit the big kicks, even from 40 or 50 yards out.

As stated, it's rare that you see a kicker who hasn't even played in a collegiate game with the leg strength and accuracy that Hedlund has. 

While it wouldn't be a shocker if Bielema ended up replacing Hocker with Henson for a season to allow Hedlund to hone his skills further before taking over the starting duties, his pure talent as a kicker is going to make it very hard to keep him off the field from day one.

When a team loses a kicker that was as big a part of a team as Hocker was, it can result in production falling off considerably. However, getting Hedlund was huge, and the starting job appears to be his to lose.

His talent is undeniable, and he has the skills to possibly be one of the best kickers the Razorbacks have had in a long time. The kicking game is often looked over when talking about building winning football programs, but Bielema has a golden leg in Hedlund that will make replacing Hocker a whole lot easier.

Is Hedlund your choice, or should Bielema go with the veteran Henson? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section.

 

All stats and rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com.

Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Follow him on Twitter: @BHeaterRivals.

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