Kickers David Buehler and Thomas Weber spent their last two off-seasons together practicing and perfecting their game while establishing a great friendship. Come Saturday afternoon at 12:30, they become rivals.
Weber, who is a Los Angeles native, could very well be Arizona State's biggest weapon. He went to Loyola High School before earning the placekicking job last year at Arizona State as a freshman. Weber went on to win the 2007 Lou Groza Award, making 24-of-25 field goals.
This season, Weber again ranks as the Pac-10 leader in field goal percentage and averages 42.6 yards per punt with only one touchback and six inside the 20-yard line.
"He is really talented and a really good friend of mine," Buehler said "He was the best kicker in the nation last year. It is going to feel really good to compete against the best come Saturday."
Six of Bueler's nine kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks, and he made all three of his field-goal attempts in USC's 44-10 win over Oregon last weekend, making him one of eight Pac-10 players nominated for special teams player of the week.
"My highlights on the Oregon game were all my field goal opportunities. I had only one before that and that was in the Virginia game," Buehler said. "It gave me an opportunity to show that I could actually kick. Coach Carroll gave me a chance to get out there, and I was able to perform well."
The secret to Buehler's success last weekend may have come from a Weber-inspired footwear change.
"I switched to soccer cleats this year before the season started," Buehler said. "Thomas and I were practicing, and I liked the cleats he was wearing so I tried them on. I really liked the way they felt, and Thomas suggested I get a pair."
No matter what shoes he wears, Buehler will be without one of his biggest allies, Allen Bradford, on kickoffs Saturday against Arizona State.
"I really miss having him out there on the field; he is a really crucial part of our team," Buehler said.
But if Buehler keeps kicking the ball into the in zone, the coverage team won't be much of a concern.
"Uona Kaveinga actually told me in meetings the other day he didn't want me to kick so he could get down the field and hit people," Buehler said. "A couple other guys told me the same thing, though I am just trying to help out the team and pin it down on the 20."
Buehler keeps it modest when it comes to his success this season, praising other parts of the special teams.
"I credit a lot of my success with my field goals to the snapper and holder, Chris Pousson and Greg Woidneck," Buehler said. "Also the Trojan wall, special guys like Zack Heberer and Butch Lewis, aren't letting anybody through which is giving me the time I need to kick the ball and put it through the uprights."