Griffin Roehler is using the spring to get back to where he was in his freshman season.
An All-Big Sky First Team selection and FCS Freshman All-American kicker in 2016, Roehler struggled off and on throughout the 2017 season.
“Last year, it was a rough start and a rough ending with everything in between,” said Northern Arizona’s kicker, who will enter his junior season in the fall. “The new special teams coach came in and he is letting me do what I grew up knowing how to do and what I did all of my freshman year. Getting back to the basics and performing how I should have performed all of last year.”
Now led by his third special teams coach in as many years, Roehler hopes to return to his freshman form with Bruce Read taking over the position group. After connecting on 44 of 45 extra points and 13 of 16 field goals in 2016, finishing as the top scoring kicker in the Big Sky Conference, Roehler scored at a similar rate in 2017 while attempting more kicks.
Making another 13 field goals and 42 extra points as a sophomore, Roehler did so while missing 11 total kicks. Four misses came on extra points, with three blocked, and another seven came on field goals, with six missed inside of 40 yards.
The misses came sporadically, with a 6-for-9 game occurring at home against Northern Colorado followed by a perfect 7-for-7 performance in the dome against Illinois State. After another 7-for-7 game at home against Sacramento State, Roehler connected on 1 of 3 at Montana a week later.
“Great competitors are compelled to feel responsible for plays that go wrong. The greatest competitors are compelled but not done in by them,” said Lumberjacks head coach Jerome Souers. “He’s a great, great competitor and I see him putting all those behind him. I think as a younger guy, he wanted to do really well and I think he carried that load when he didn't. Even things that were not in his control, he wanted to take responsibility.”
Souers said he appreciated his kicker’s sentiment, while finding it misguided at times. Northern Arizona’s head coach reiterated the point he made throughout last season, that the misses were not only Roehler’s fault.
“Griff Roehler knows that he is a quality kicker, he is dedicated to his craft and he is perfectly capable of making every kick that he lines up for -- he knows that,” added Souers, with Roehler's 2017 season also including a jump in his touchback percentage on kickoffs from 38 to 49 percent. “The things that gave us some trouble last year were when different dynamics affected that, be it through protection or a snap and a hold that might not have been perfect or things that can distract you.”
Roehler left Agua Fria High School in Avondale following a career that included three All-Division III, Section First-Team honors as well as a pair of all-division honors.
As a freshman, Roehler finished perfect in eight of 11 games, with three of his four misses coming outside of the Walkup Skydome.
“If you look back, there’s nothing to repair other than how distractions can cause you to lose focus,” Souers said. “Griffin is approaching the year understanding you have got to manage the distractions to keep your focus. I see him kicking with more confidence, so I don't see it as a rebuild as much as a rethinking. He’s thinking about things differently, and I like where he is and the way that he is thinking about it.”
While the opposing rush was limited, Roehler connected on all of his kicks in last Saturday’s scrimmage including a few from the 40-yard range. While the pressure is obviously much lower during spring practice as opposed to the regular season, Roehler sees the slate wiped clean going forward.
“You can never let the last kick affect the next kick,” Roehler said. “So making sure that every kick that just happened doesn’t affect the next kick, last year isn’t going to affect this year.”