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Under Armour notebook: Life's a little more low key for kickers

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Wed. January 2, 2013 | Times Staff

St. Petersburg's Sean CovingtonWharton's Vernon Hargreaves III

KISSIMMEE — With all the attention this week on the more high-profile recruits at the more high-profile positions, St. Petersburg kicker Sean Covington has been able to toil in relative obscurity at practices for the Under Armour All-America Game.

He has had the best seat in the house, booming punts into the sunny skies in between getting an eyeful of the major talent around him.

And during Wednesday’s media session, he was almost able to eat his entire lunch without getting bothered by a single reporter or recruiting analyst.

“It’s been pretty slow. We kind of do our own thing and just kick,’’ said Covington, who averaged 46.5 yards a punt this past season and was rated by some recruiting services as the top kicker in the country.

When Covington attended last year’s game at Tropicana Field, “I was thinking to myself, I want to play in this.”

He made it one of his goals to get an invitation, which came after a strong showing at a Kohl’s Kicking Camp, where he was named the top punter.

“It’s huge,’’ Covington said. “All my friends and family and people from St. Pete (High) will be there. It’s definitely the best way to end my high school career.’’

The hardest thing for Covington this week has been getting used to new holders, none of whom worked with a left-footed kicker this season. The last 30 minutes of the first practice Monday was spent acclimating the quarterbacks, who now have to hold the ball with their opposite hand and tilt the ball differently.

“It’s a challenge and a big adjustment,’’ said Covington, who seemed to have little trouble splitting the uprights.

Covington said he has had a chance to do a lot of player watching this week, and the one All-American who has impressed him most is Central Valley (Pa.) High wide receiver Robert Foster.

“He’s blown everyone away,’’ Covington said.

Foster is one of many undecided players, and while the recruitniks conjecture about his college destination, Covington said he is still firm on his verbal commitment to UCLA, which he made in October.

The Tampa Bay Times’ all-Pinellas and all-Suncoast first-team selection has taken his official visit to the Bruins and said he might visit another school.

SKILLS CHALLENGE: Wharton’s Vernon Hargreaves III had a solid showing as Tampa Bay’s lone participant in Wednesday’s skills challenge.

The Florida commit finished tied for second in a four-competitor field in the hands challenge for receivers and defensive backs.

Hargreaves, ESPN’s top-ranked cornerback, dropped an early pass from a machine and bobbled the final reception to complete the obstacle course in 30.56 seconds. He and uncommitted athlete Max Redfield (Mission Viejo, Calif.) finished 1.5 seconds behind LSU-bound cornerback  Jeryl Brazil (Loranger, La.).

Zack Greenlee (Fresno State) won the quarterback skills challenge with a score of 258. That’s 50 points better than Miami commit Kevin Olsen (Wayne, N.J.). Ohio State-bound tight end Marcus Baugh edged Mississippi State commit Chris Jones by 0.11 seconds in the lineman obstacle course, and Alex Anzalone (Notre Dame) won the linebacker challenge.

COMMITMENT UPDATE: Cocoa running back Tarean Folston committed to Notre Dame on Wednesday, choosing the Fighting Irish over Florida State and Oregon. Folston, Rivals’ No. 13 running back and a four-star recruit, also placed fourth in the hands skill challenge.

ODDS AND ENDS: Foster, who continues to catch everything thrown his way, was one of the top performers again for Team Highlight, as well as fellow receiver Ra’Shaad Samples (Oklahoma State).

• Defensive end Carl Lawson may have been Team Nitro’s top performer. The Auburn commitment (though it is considered very soft) was too fast for his offensive line teammates and virtually unstoppable in one-on-one drills. .

• South Sumter safety and Florida commit Keanu Neal said he’s still bothered by a lingering ankle injury he sustained in the first round of the playoffs, but that hasn’t kept him from practicing this week for Team Highlight. Another Gator safety commitment, Dr. Phillips’ Marcell Harris, had hoped to return this week and play Friday but has apparently been shut down by his future school.

• Team Highlight teammates Greenlee and Penn State commit Christian Hackenberg drew praise as perhaps the game’s top two quarterbacks.

• Narrow sidelines and an overthrown pass led Georgia cornerback commit Shaq Wiggins to get shaken up after running into a padded barrier past the end zone.

• Former Armwood quarterback  and current Vanderbilt receiver Josh Grady joined the Hawks contingents at practice.

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE: Both teams will practice from 10 a.m. until noon at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Players will then perform community service at Barnett Park in Orlando in the afternoon.

Compiled by staff writers John C. Cotey and Matt Baker.

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