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It wasn’t as if Arkansas needed another offensive weapon, but the Razorbacks have found one this season in freshman kicker Zach Hocker.
The Russellville native has been a pleasant surprise, connecting on 10 of 11 field goal attempts. His 90.9 percent accuracy is tops in the SEC and is tied for 11th nationally. He has made all 39 of his extra point attempts.
Hocker, who originally committed to Arkansas State, continued his remarkable freshman campaign Saturday night with makes from 41 and 51 yards in the Razorbacks’ 41-20 win over South Carolina. Hocker’s latter kick was the school’s longest since all-American Kendall Trainor booted a 58-yarder in 1988.
He is the first Razorbacks kicker to make a 50-yarder since Todd Wright in 1992, when Hocker was 1-year-old.
“I’m just really thankful,” Hocker said. “I just try to go out there and do the same thing over and over. Whether it’s a 20-yarder or a 50-yarder, I go out and just do the exact same thing and try to stay consistent.
“I love Coach (Bobby) Petrino for giving me the chance to out there and put it through, and having that kind of confidence in me. It means everything to go out and try to show something as a freshman.”
Hocker wasn’t even in the running for the place kicker job when preseason practices began in August. Instead, he was battling Dylan Breeding for the starting punter job.
But when Alex Tejada and Eddie Camara struggled to find consistency and Breeding began to pull away in the other competition, Hocker was given the chance to kick field goals in practices. The rest, as they say, is history.
He drilled 48-yard field goals in back-to-back games against Georgia and Alabama early in the season and has made at least one field goal in every game but one this year.
“Zach has done a tremendous job being able to deal with the pressure he has,” Arkansas special teams coordinator John L. Smith said. “I think great kickers are like ducks; they kind of let the water and the bad things roll off their back. They don’t worry about it and move on to the next kick. That’s what Zach can do as well, even though he hasn’t missed many. He has great focus.
“He’s a special kid and could be very, very special before he’s done.”