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August 4, 2013Place kickers have played a vital role in North Carolina football history for the better part of four decades.
A good measure of that impact can be found in UNC's list of career field goal leaders.
Ten of the 14 Tar Heel place kickers between 1975 and 2012 can be found on that list, starting with Tom "Down The Middle'' Biddle in 1975 to current record holder Casey Barth last year.
Junior Thomas Moore would like to add his name to that list over the next two seasons.
Moore has handled UNC's placekicking duties the last two seasons during stretches when Casey Barth was out with injuries.
But when preseason camp opened Thursday, Moore owned the job outright.
Some might consider it a daunting task to follow in the footsteps, so to speak, of the prolific Barth brothers.
Casey and Connor rank first and second respectively on UNC's career field goal list, and at some point in time there has been a Barth on the Tar Heel roster going all the way back to the 2004 season. Until of course, this season.
Moore, however, isn't bothered by the challenge.
"I'd say the experience has helped me understand I can get the job done,'' Moore said following spring practice in April. "I can go out there and kick without the butterflies that somebody like a freshman might have.''
Moore, who attended nearby East Chapel Hill High and came to UNC as a walk on, has certainly seen enough action with the Tar Heels to feel at ease.
As a freshman in 2011, he was thrust into a starting role in the third game of the season when Casey Barth went down with a groin injury. Moore responded by connecting on six of 10 field-goal attempts and all 38 point-after-touchdown tries.
Moore again subbed for Barth last season over the final three games when Barth lost with another injury. He made two of three field goal tries and 12 extra-point kicks during that trial.
"I learned so much from Casey,'' Moore said. "Just his aura, his focus, how poised he was and how he handle different situations was great, especially when I was a freshman.
"But more than anything he taught me that confidence is the No. 1 thing. You are out there by yourself and the barometer for success is so easy to see. It goes in or it goes out. So having the confidence that you can make it is usually the difference in failing or succeeding as a kicker.''
Kicking a football never was part of Moore's career plan until he was in the seventh grade. He was a soccer player back then, but his older brother was playing quarterback for the East Chapel Hill junior varsity squad at the time.
The JVs didn't have anyone who could handle the placement duties, so Moore's older brother gave it a try.
"You know how brothers are,'' Moore said. "I saw him try it and thought, 'I can do it better than you.' I was a soccer player at the time, so I went over to see if I could do it. I realized, 'Hey, I'm pretty good at this.'''
Moore's middle school didn't have a football team, so he had to wait until high school before getting an opportunity to kick in a real game. Having no real knowledge about the proper technique for placekicking, Moore and his father Robert first turned to the Internet.
"We found the three steps back, two over and kick it,'' Moore said. "Then I met Dan at his camp.''
'Dan' is former UNC placekicker Dan Orner, who has become sort of a guru for young kickers these days.
Orner, who still owns the record for longest field goal in Tar Heel history - a 55-yarder against Syracuse in 2002 - is based in Charlotte and offers instruction for kickers and punters.
"At the point I started working with Dan in high school I didn't know that much about kicking,'' Moore said. "He really got me through the fundamentals.
"There are similarities between the soccer and football kick. But with soccer you kind of swing around. Football is more like a pendulum swinging.''
UNC head coach Larry Fedora seemed confident at the recent Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff that Moore's pendulum would be swinging in the right direction for the Tar Heels this fall.
"He really did some nice things in the spring,'' Fedora said. "Some days he was 100 percent and others like 18 out of 20. We're very confident in Thomas Moore.''
Just for fun, I'd be interested in hearing from readers about your favorite former Tar Heel placekicker.
I have to admit being partial to my frat brother, Tom Biddle, a straight-on kicker who led the ACC in field goals in 1976 (with 18) and in 1977 (15). Tom still ranks eighth on the all-time school field goal list (34) and is ninth on the single-season list (15 in '77).
Here's a brief year-by-year list of UNC's starting kickers since Biddle, who handled the duties between 1975-77.
JEFF HAYES (1977-81) - One of the more athletic kickers in UNC history, Hayes once scored on a 70-yard run against South Carolina on a fake punt for the Tar Heels. He still ranks No. 10 on the school's all-time field goal list (22), is tied for sixth in career field goal attempts and is second in PATs made (133). Hayes also enjoyed a lengthy career punting in the NFL, playing in two Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins.
BROOKS BARWICK (1981-83) - Barwick was a darn good one. He stills holds sixth place on the career field goal list (37), is third in single-season field goals (20 in 1982) and owns an amazing school mark for converting field goals in 18 consecutive games.
ROB ROGERS (1982-83) - Rogers handled kickoffs and was used on long field goal attempts behind Barwick for two years. While his name doesn't appear in the career field goal list, he does have the distinction of making one of the longest field goals in school history - a 53-yarder against Texas in the 1982 Sun Bowl. The boot is still tied for third-best in the UNC record books.
LEE GLIARMIS (1985-86) - Gliarmis was the last straight-on kicker at UNC. Gliarmis, from Wilson, led the Tar Heels in scoring in 1986 and his 28-yard field goal in the final seconds that season helped UNC defeat Maryland, 32-20.
KENNY MILLER (1984-87) - Perhaps one of the strongest legs to swing for the goal posts in Kenan Stadium, Miller owns two of the longest field goals in school history. His 54-yarder against Florida State in 1985 is tied for second and a 51-yarder against Maryland in 1987 is fifth. Miller's 34 career field goals rank him seventh. Lately, Miller has been noted for is work with Clemson's outstanding kicker, Chandler Catanzaro.
CLINT GWALTNEY (1988-91) - Now a senior associate athletic director for operations at UNC, Gwaltney was one of the ACC's best during his college career. He's fourth on the career field goal list (43) and his 21 3-pointers in 1990 are tied for the best single-season mark. But Gwaltney's biggest career highlight may have been the school-record-tying six field goals he converted against Maryland in 1990.
TRIPP PIGNETTI (1991-94) - Pignetti proved to a vital weapon as Mack Brown's rebuilding efforts at UNC began to pay off in the early 1990s. He produced 38 field goals during his career to rank fifth all-time at UNC. Pignetti is also third in PATs (117) and his 50 point-after kicks in 1993 is still a single-season record.
JEFF REED (2000-2001) - The kicker with the most distinguished career, Reed ranks second on the NFL Pittsburgh franchise all-time scoring list and won a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers. Reed was originally a walk-on at UNC, but eventually earned a scholarship. His 66 straight PATs set a UNC record and as a senior he was one of 20 finalists for the Lou Groza Award given annually to the nation's top kicker.
JOSH MCGEE (1996-1999) - McGee enjoyed the greatest afternoon ever by a UNC kicker against Duke on Nov. 20, 1999 when he connected on a school-record six field goals in a 38-0 thrashing of the Blue Devils. McGee produced the performance on Senior Day at Kenan Stadium and in the final game for head coach Carl Torbush. He completed his Tar Heel career third on the field goal list (52).
DAN ORNER (2002-2003) - We've already talked about Orner the guru. But Orner the kicker at UNC still owns the longest field goal in school history with his 55-yarder against Syracuse in 2002. He also converted field goals of 52 and 51 yards in a 30-22 win against the Orange that day in the Carrier Dome. Those were the first field goals of a college career for Orner.
CONNOR BARTH (2004-2007) - His 42-yard field goal at time expired to beat No. 4-ranked Miami, 31-28, in October 2004 is one of the most memorable plays in UNC football history. Connor held the school career field goal record (54) before brother Casey broke it last season and three of the longest field goals by a Tar Heel belong to him. Connor is now the kicker for the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
JAY WOOTEN (2008) - Wooten eventually transferred to South Carolina where he enjoyed a solid career. But before left he matched the school single-game record for most field goals by a freshman with three against Rutgers.
CASEY BARTH (2008-2012) - Despite injuries that sent him to the sidelines in both 2011 and 2012, Casey managed to become UNC's all-time leader in career field goals (66), PATs (160) and consecutive PATs made (126).
THOMAS MOORE (2011-present) - Moore took over the last two seasons when Casey Barth went down with injuries. He's converted eight of 13 field goals and all 50 PATs during his first two seasons at UNC.