Competing Kickers Dunlevy and Develli Work as One
By Matt Kovatch
Originally published Sept. 22, 2007 in the W&M game programBefore fall camp started for the 2007 season, arguably the biggest question mark surrounding the Virginia Tech football team was centered on the kicking game. The Hokies had just graduated three mainstays from their special teams - place-kicker Brandon Pace, punter Nic Schmitt and snapper Nick Leeson - and the spring game, which coach Frank Beamer said is his biggest evaluation of the state of the kicking game, was called off due to the events of April 16th. He even made the team's fall scrimmages open to the public for the first time ever, in hopes of seeing how his kickers would react under the pressure of watchful eyes. Yet after the first couple of weeks into the schedule - a 17-7 survival against East Carolina, and a 48-7 beating at the hands of LSU - the kicking game had been the least of the Hokies' problems. Granted, place-kicker Jud Dunlevy and kickoff man Jared Develli hadn't had much of an opportunity to make a difference, but both are confident that they can be important cogs in the process of getting the Hokies back to their 2006 ways. Dunlevy, a redshirt senior out of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., won the place-kicking battle despite having some growing pains during those scrimmages. Following the LSU game, he had converted all three of his extra point attempts and his lone field goal try, which was the first of his career after serving as a three-year backup. "People were doubting me after all the scrimmages," Dunlevy said. "But I've been telling people that [during the games] I felt more relaxed out there than I do at practice sometimes. Coach Beamer said he still backed me and that he knew I could get the job done. All through preseason, I've been confident in my ability, and now I think that's starting to show and pay off a little bit." Dunlevy's main competition for the kicking duties - for this season and the past three - has been Develli, a senior from Sterling, Va. Though Develli has just one field goal attempt to his name, he has handled nearly all the kickoffs during his tenure in Blacksburg, and led the ACC in 2006 with 35 touchbacks. "Typically, it's my goal every time to hit the ball high and deep and get it out of the back of the end zone," Develli said of his craft. "Sometimes, there's a wind in my face that might hold the ball up, but for the most part, I know when I hit it whether it's going out or not." Both specialists could very well be playing soccer right now - Dunlevy loved the game but was forced to give it up as it was played during the fall where he grew up, and Develli believes he could've played at the Division I level had he stuck with it instead of focusing on football once recruiting letters started coming in. Instead, they are now each in the final season of their Hokie careers after spending much of the past three seasons pushing each other to be the best they can be. "All the competition kept me going and made me better the whole time," Dunlevy said when asked whether he would like to add Develli's kickoff duties to his resume. "I want to be out there [on the field] as much as possible and I like kicking off, but Jared can really drive the ball and he's doing a good job. The first year, it was more of a rivalry because he came in here and started, but we've gotten to be good friends over the past few years and we support each other in what we do." Though Develli would love the opportunity to get a few field goals under belt, he relishes the fact that with kickoffs being moved back to the 30-yard line and the possibility of more returns, he might have a chance to make some tackles this season. "I'm actually excited about it," the former high-school safety said. "I loved hitting people, and I miss it. We [kickers] actually don't [work on hitting in practice], but I basically just derive everything from when I used to hit people in high school." Though the 243-pound Develli laughs at the notion of implementing some tackling drills among the kickers - and particularly with his 179-pound counterpart - to get a leg up on the field goal job, he agrees with Dunlevy that there's no bad blood between the two. "He's been my roommate for two years [on away trips and at the Hotel Roanoke prior to home games], so we have a great relationship," Develli said. "We obviously know that when we come out here and put our helmets on and strap it up, we're competing. But at the end of the day, I've got his back and he's got mine."