By Jeff Owens/Photos by Juan Blas
As Alex Woznick practices booting field-goal attempts through the uprights during Gamecock training camp, he keeps having flashbacks to spring practice.
Flashbacks to the low point of his South Carolina career so far, and the moment that motivates him as he prepares for his first season at the Gamecocks' placekicker.
While having a rough day during the spring, head coach Will Muschamp walked up to him and told him that if he missed his next kick, the whole team had to run.
"He said if you miss this, the whole team has to do a gasser," Woznick said. "I wasn't having a good day in the beginning and I ended up missing it.
"It definitely taught me that I need to learn a little more."
Woznick redeemed himself in the Garnet & Black spring game, booting field goals of 47, 48 and 50 yards. He hopes to find himself in more pressure situations before the season-opener Sept. 2 against N.C. State in Charlotte.
"Hopefully I will get more chances like that and he will put more pressure situations on me," Woznick said.
That's exactly what Muschamp has in mind for his young kicker. A redshirt freshman from Greenville's Eastside High School, Woznick has some big shoes to fill replacing Elliott Fry, the school's all-time leader scorer.
Special teams is a key area of concern as South Carolina graduated its kicker, punter and long-snapper last year. Woznick is competing with sophomore Michael Almond for the placekicking job, while Almond and sophomore Joseph Charlton are battling at punter. Junior Ben Asbury and freshman Harrison Freeman are the long-snappers.
But all eyes are on Woznick as he prepares for a crucial job in Muschamp's second season.
"Alex has the ability to accomplish and do everything that we need to do at the position but he has never done it in front of 80,000 people before and I can't simulate that in camp," Muschamp said. "So to try to put him in as many pressure situation as we can, we will. I certainly have a lot of confidence in Alex."
A former soccer player, Woznick helped his soccer team win a state championship at Eastside in 2014 and scored 60 points for the football team as a senior. He watched last season as Fry connected on 13 of 17 field-goal attempts — including a career-high 55-yard game-winner in the season-opener against Vanderbilt — and made all 31 of his PATs to lead the team with 70 points.
"I have got some big shoes to fill, some very big shoes," Woznick said. "I looked up to him a lot. He's taught me a lot, too. I was not as good when I came in and he helped me out and I got better. I hope to be able to break his record but that was amazing what he did."
Woznick has been on the field for pregame warmups and watched as Fry booted pressure-packed field goals in front of big crowds. He calls the experience "humbling," but is ready to face his own big moments this season.
"I feel (the pressure) a little but it will probably be a little different in the game," he said. "Hopefully, by that point, I'm ready."
If the pressure gets to him, or he is struggling, he knows where to turn to for advice. He keeps in touch with Fry and knows his mentor is just a text or phone call away.
"I will probably give him a text or call (before the first game) to get some confidence boost from him and see what I should be expecting," he said.