Justin Kahut says he's learned a lot from OSU's Groza winner
CORVALLIS - It's a new world that Justin Kahut lives in. No longer is he Alexis Serna's caddy.
'Still getting used to it,' says the Clackamas High grad, the top candidate to succeed Serna as Oregon State's kicker next fall. 'It's weird being the No. 1 guy now, following Alexis, but it's definitely exciting.'
Kahut seems a Serna clone. At 5-8 and 160 pounds, he is almost the exact size as the top kicker in OSU history and the Groza Award winner as the nation's top kicker in 2006. Kahut has the same kind of leg as Serna, their voices sound alike and, hey, they've been roommates the past year.
That's been a bonus for Kahut, who has soaked in every bit of knowledge he can from the player who made 80 of 104 field-goal attempts and set the Pac-10 record for most consecutive extra-point conversions (144).
'I've been able to learn a lot from Alexis, on and off the field,' Kahut says. 'He's taught me a lot about technique and handling different situations.'
Serna says Kahut has been a good pupil.
'I've always said Justin will be even better than me before he is through,' says Serna, who is working at Wilson Motors while training for a crack at an NFL career. 'I'm teaching him what not to do. He's learning the right way, rather than the way it was for me - learning the hard way.
'Justin is very dangerous. He has just about as strong a leg as I do. I'm really excited to see him kick next year. I have high hopes for him.'
So does coach Mike Riley, who already has plenty of faith in the redshirt sophomore.
'Justin has prepared himself physically and mentally for this opportunity,' Riley says. 'He appears unfazed by the challenge ahead. Replacing Alexis Serna is hard to do, but Justin is a composed, poised young man with a lot of leg. He gets the ball in the air quickly.'
Serna left an indelible legacy, but Kahut says he feels little pressure to follow a legend.
'I'm not worried about it - not as much as everybody thinks, at least,' says Kahut, who probably will convert from walk-on to scholarship player in the fall. 'I'm just focusing on doing my best, not really worrying about filling anybody's shoes. I have high expectations for myself, so I'm going to try to do my best and see what happens.'
Kahut made a 38-yard field goal and was 3 for 3 on extra points in OSU's 61-10 rout of Idaho State last year, and he had a long field goal of 52 yards during a stellar career at Clackamas.
'On a good day, I can hit 60 (yards)-plus now, but the conditions have to be good,' he says. 'I'd like to think I can be consistent up to 50.'
Kahut got no major scholarship offers out of high school, but then-OSU special teams coach Bruce Read saw a diamond in the rough and invited him to walk on.
'I was actually a Duck fan in high school,' Kahut says. 'I wanted to go to Oregon. But Coach Read kept calling me. I took a trip to both schools and got a lot better feel here. I didn't really like it a whole lot down in Eugene. I'm 100 percent Beaver now.'
Three walk-ons are competing this spring for punting duties - Kyle Harper, a 6-0, 195-pound redshirt freshman from Sunset High; Sean Sehnem, a 5-11, 195-pound junior transfer from Western New Mexico, and Josh Makepeace, a 6-5, 180-pound left-footed freshman from North Valley High in Grants Pass. Makepeace was a starting quarterback and 3A third-team all-state punter in 2005.
One of the three will become an invited walk-on to compete with another walk-on, incoming freshman Johnny Hekker, for the punting job during August camp. Hekker is a 6-5, 200-pound QB from Bothell, Wash.
• A similar situation exists at quarterback, where the Beavers have three scholarship players - senior Lyle Moevao, junior Sean Canfield and freshman Ryan Katz - along with walk-ons Brennan Sim, a sophomore, and freshmen Justin Engstrom and Zach Anderson. One of the three walk-ons will be invited back for August camp.
• Canfield has recovered nicely from January surgery to repair a torn labrum on his throwing (left) shoulder. He has been cleared to begin a throwing program next week but will sit out this spring. 'I'll be at full strength by June and will work out with the guys in Corvallis this summer,' he says.
• One walk-on who has caught the eye of OSU coaches is 6-4, 285-pound Mike Remmers, the redshirt freshman from Jesuit who is running No. 1 at offensive right tackle. Remmers' father, Wally, was a starting offensive guard for Dee Andros and Craig Fertig from 1974-76.
- Kerry Eggers