Diego Guajardo ‘meticulous’ gives South Alabama confidence in kicking game
No one really notices a kicker until they miss him, and luckily for Southern Alabama, that hasn’t happened often lately.
Jaguars kicker Diego Guajardo is 4-for-4 on field goals and 5-for-5 on extra points this season heading into Saturday night’s game against Alcorn State. Among those were three field goals last week against Bowling Green, including one for 44 yards when time expired to give South Alabama a 22-19 victory and take their record to 2-0 this season. .
“I don’t think there was anyone on the sidelines who didn’t think he was going to do that kick,” said head coach Kane Wommack.
The three field goals were a career record for Guajardo, a third-year Spanish Fort student who played his high school ball to Daphne. On Monday, he was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.
The praise from his teammates was even more gratifying for Guajardo. South Alabama posted a short video of the post-game locker room celebration, in which the other Jaguars chanted “Diego, Diego” over and over.
“It was a great feeling,” Guajardo said. “The love from my teammates that day and everyone who has continually shown love to me over the past few days has been awesome.”
Guajardo has scored 13 of his last 15 field goals at the start of the 2020 season, including a school record 54 yards against Georgia Southern. He missed two baskets early in a win over Arkansas State last November, but has been perfect since, including kicks from 48, 44 and 41 yards this season.
Also the Jaguars’ kickoff man, Guajardo has plenty of power in his left leg. In addition to his game winner against Bowling Green, he also kicked a 41-yard player just before halftime to bring South Alabama down to 8-6.
“If we can get inside the 35-yard line, we’re pretty confident we’re going to be able to hit it,” Wommack said. “We talk about the winning line all the time (to try for a placement) all the time, but with Diego the winning line isn’t the 28 yard line, it’s over 35. And even then, he can, he can make an attempt.
It’s not that Guajardo’s success is just “see the ball, kick the ball”. He takes a scientific approach to his work, said special teams coach Jamael Lett.
“He spends a lot of time working hard,” Lett said. “He’s really meticulous. Even with its steps, it can give you the number of inches from the stand to where it needs to be. It’s just a tribute to him and our holder and our snapper, they just have really great chemistry.
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While Guajardo was South Alabama’s main kicker a year ago, his incumbent and snapper are both new this season. Colorado transfer Travis Drosos became a snapper on field goals / extra runs and punters, while punter Jack Brooks took over after the Jaguars used quarterbacks Tanner McGee and Eli Gainey in this role in 2020.
Brooks is a southpaw like Guajardo, which perhaps gives him an advantage as a starter, with his dominant hand in front to receive the snap. The two have forged a close friendship, both on and off the pitch.
“It’s really special to work with him every day. With the wedges, I try to make things as easy as possible. He’s had a really good season this season, even last season too. He’s stepped up his efforts and it’s good to be with someone like that to train and work with every day.
All of that work culminated in the game winner against Bowling Green, which Guajardo said was his first, whether in middle school or high school. The game was tied at 19-19 and looked to be heading into overtime before the Jaguars’ defense forced a turnaround.
South Alabama linebacker Shawn Jennings released Falcons wide receiver Christian Sims’ ball, and Quentin Wilfawn fell on it at Bowling Green 32. After three short running games, Guajardo headed for the field to try out the game winner. .
Guajardo said it was the culmination of a lifetime of football dreams.
“I wasn’t nervous about missing it or doing it, I was nervous dreaming about this moment for the longest time,” Guajardo said. “It was crazy to me that this was going to happen. I was about to do it and feel all the emotions I dreamed of and stuff.
“I think that’s what got me more than nervousness and all that. I think that was the only reason I wasn’t afraid to miss something like this.
South Alabama-Alcorn State kicks off Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hancock Whitney Stadium.