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August 25, 2012Casey Barth did not have a healthy leg to kick on in 2011, and that took much of the joy out of the football season.
"It was nothing I had ever experienced before," Barth said. "I was lucky enough to play as a freshman. I never had to sit out and not travel for a game. After that Georgia Tech game, where we traveled and I couldn't go, it was pretty tough. It hurt a lot. But it was part of what I had to go through with the redshirt.
"It was tough, especially just sitting there, knowing I couldn't do anything about it," Barth said. "I had to just cheer on my teammates and be a good leader."
Now a fifth-year senior, Barth is once again the Tar Heels' place-kicker. This has been a family business for the Barths, as Connor preceded Casey at UNC.
Connor, now kicking in the National Football Leaguge, became the leading kicker in school history with his extraordinary consistency and the timeliness of his kicks. His last-second field goal against nationally ranked Miami in a night game at Kenan Stadium ranks as one of the top moments for Carolina football.
Now Casey has a chance to pass him, needing just four field goals to be the school career leader. He credits his brother for helping him to succeed.
"He told me you have to visualize the night before and be confident out there," Barth said. "That was the main thing. If you miss one, you just have to forget it and go to the next kick. So in that aspect, being older has really helped me.
"You have to really see yourself kicking the field goals," Barth said. "I tried doing that and being confident. When I got out there, it kind of seemed like I was there before. I wasn't quite as nervous. Once you hit a couple, you get that confidence you need to keep kicking them."
A year ago, Barth strained a groin muscle against Virginia on Sept. 17, and he has not kicked in a game since.
Thomas Moore, then a freshman from East Chapel Hill High School, replaced Barth.
Working on getting past the injury, Barth said, is one way he dealt with not being to play and help his teammates last season. Another was rooting for Moore.
"I just concentrated on the rehabilitation," Barth said. "All the kickers, snappers and holders, they're great. They helped to keep my spirits up. That helped me a lot."
"The games were still fun," Barth said. "I like being on the sideline, seeing everybody excited. But it was hard, not being able to dress out. It was hard to watch. I just kept my fingers crossed for Thomas."
First-year coach Larry Fedora said that Barth had a strong preseason camp.
"He's been very, very consistent," Fedora said. "He's done some really nice things during the whole camp. The leg strength is completely there. He had had no fatigue in the leg."
Barth's value is not underrated with this staff. All through camp Fedora stressed it would be important not to strain Barth by having him kick too much in the preseason, particularly kickoffs.
"Everything is back to normal," Barth said. "I'm 100 percent again. I just had to watch the [repetitions]. That was the main thing. We had kind of a kick count and getting an ice bath after practice."
Confidence is a tricky issue for place-kickers. Their opportunities are limited, and they are expected to convert when called upon. A few misses can wreck some kickers. This is another area in which Barth said that he was able to utilize his brother's experiences.
"The biggest thing is when you have adversity, missing a kick, how to deal with that," Barth said. "My sophomore year, I missed three in a row at the beginning of the season. That was tough. I talked to my brother a lot because he had been through similar things."
When this season's camp rolled around, Barth found himself starting fresh in one sense. There was a new coaching staff, and he had not kicked since September of the previous season.
"It was different," Barth said. "It was like getting out there for the first time again. I was a little nervous. As camp went on, I settled in a little bit."
The scrimmages helped him move past the nervousness and regain the confidence he had earned with his success on the field.
"In one scrimmage, I hit a 52-yarder," Barth said. "That is a pretty good distance for me. It all depends on the wind."
Now he is just eager for the Sept. 1 opener against Elon at 12:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium.
"I can't wait," Barth said. "I am so excited. I haven't played since last September. There is nothing better than running out in Kenan Stadium on Saturdays.
"Just hearing the band play the fight song and hearing everybody cheer," Barth said. "That's the best."