When he arrived at the University of Maryland as a freshman in 2012, Australian kicker Brad Craddock was making the jump into a new sport. The making the transition from Australian Rules football to American football was not easy for Craddock. Now in his third year with the program, he has made significant strides as an American football player.
Before coming to the United States, Craddock was a four-sport athlete at Tabor Christian College in Melbourne, Australia. The switch to a new style of kicking was difficult for Craddock -- changing from a punting style to place kicking.
Craddock connected on 62.5 percent of his field goal attempts during his freshman season. No missed field goal hurt more than a 33-yard attempt at home against North Carolina State Oct. 20, 2012, that dinged off the left upright. The kick would have given the Terps a 21-20 lead with two seconds remaining.
Since that missed attempt, Craddock has worked to make improvements to both his technique and mental preparation. The work has intensified since his freshman season, and Craddock feels the difference.
"It's really different, it's confidence," Craddock said. "I'm confident in my technique and I expect to do it, where as a freshman I didn't have that. It's very different -- still need a lot of work. I've only been doing this for two-and-a-half years now, so there's still a lot that I need to work on, but it's getting better."
The progress can be seen in the way Craddock is kicking during the 2014-15 season. He broke the school record during the Terps' 52-24 loss against Ohio State University Oct. 4, drilling a 57-yard field goal in the first quarter. Craddock's improvement has increased head coach Randy Edsall's confidence in his kicker, as well. Edsall did not hesitate to give Craddock the opportunity.
"I thought that was really neat for him," Edsall said. "It's quite an accomplishment, but it doesn't surprise me he does those things because of how he works and prepares. You talk about a young man who has come a long way since coming over here from Australia."
To improve as a kicker, Craddock worked with former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover. The two focused on Craddock's technique in both his upper and lower body, emphasizing the importance of keeping his shoulders square and swinging his leg through "like a golf club." Craddock is continuing to work with Stover and acknowledges he still has more to improve on.
"I still have some stuff in my upper body I need to fix -- a couple things with my tempo and my kickoffs," Craddock said. "There's a list."
When kicking in the past, Craddock would always focus on relaxing before his kicks. Stover gave him some different advice to get more power behind his kicks.
"Get angry," Craddock said. "You don't want to be really calm or relaxed when you're out there. It's more like, you're going to do it and put it through on every kick, and you have that mindset every time you kick it."
The Maryland coaching staff has also done its part in Craddock's progress. Edsall and his staff put together programs for Craddock in practices and in his off-the-field preparation.
"We've done a lot of things with Brad in terms of the days that we kick -- how much kicking we do with him, how he trains in the weight room," Edsall said. "We've sought information; he's sought information to make the most optimal situation for him to be the best kicker he can be."
Through all of the work Craddock has done since starting his career at Maryland, Edsall has been impressed with the overall person Craddock has become. Edsall has encouraged other players on the team to talk with the kicker and pick his brain about his experiences. The Maryland head coach hopes that by talking with Craddock, other players will adopt his same work ethic and desire to improve.
Craddock was named to the 2014 Lou Groza Award Watch List (best kicker in the FBS) entering the season, which is a testament to how far he has come. He is open to hearing feedback from various perspectives, and is able to take it constructively. These are the traits that have helped Craddock accomplish so much.
"It's through hard work, and being a student of the game and wanting to be really good and putting the time and effort into trying to be the best that he can be," Edsall said. "That's what it is and that's how you become successful. You self-analyze yourself and look at the things you need to do and he takes coaching very well."
Like most athletes at the collegiate level, Craddock has aspirations of playing in the NFL. For now, his focus is on continuing his improvement on the field and helping the Terps win games in the Big Ten conference.
Follow Chris on Twitter @Garmelo10.