The Vanderbilt coaching staff secured a important commitment on Tuesday when Mayfield (Ohio) kicking specialist Carey Spear accepted a full scholarship offer. Rated as the nation's seventh best kicking prospect by former UCLA standout turned national instructor Chris Sailer, Spear received the offer shortly after taking a official visit to the university over the weekend.
"I took my official visit to Vanderbilt and met with Coach Bobby Johnson, and I just felt like he was well respected by all the players and the program had a lot of stability," Spear told Bill Tilton in the Cleveland News-Herald. "I worked out at Vanderbilt in the summer and stayed in constant contact. It gives me the chills to think about kicking in front of that many people and competing against the talent in the SEC.
"And of course, academics was very big, and all the schools I narrowed my choice to had strong academics. I can't say enough about Vanderbilt. If the dream (of the NFL) comes true, that's great. But if it doesn't, I will have a degree from Vanderbilt. I would say that would be just fine."
A two-time All-Ohio selection, Spear gained national fame this November by kicking a 61-yard field goal off a free kick, tying a state record. Spear converted on 13-of-21 field goal opportunities in 2009 after converting 14-of-20 as a junior. Nearly half of his field goal makes in 2009 came from 40 yards or further.
More importantly, Spear posted 75 total touchbacks during his last two seasons at Mayfield and nearly averaged 42 yards a punt during his senior year.
That kind of versatility was what the Commodore coaches were looking for and Spear will have the opportunity to compete for immediate playing time in 2010 in all three phases of the kicking game. He indicated to the News-Herald that the playing time as well as academics and the chance to play in the SEC were big factors into his decision.
"My dad has always told me pressure is a privilege," Spear said. "Going against SEC talent and kicking in front of 100,000 people is exciting, but I feel like I have been blessed and given a great opportunity here. So I am going to work my tail off and not take anything for granted."
Spear had other offers from Ball State, Miami of Ohio and Air Force, and was considering walk-on opportunities at Michigan and Penn State. A trip to Ole Miss was planned for this week but he has since cancelled the visit. Ohio State, UCLA, Stanford, South Carolina, Purdue and a number of Ivy League schools were also interested. Spear carries a 4.5 GPA and scored a 32 on his ACT.
The 5-foot-11 Spear will handle all kicking duties in the Ohio North-South Classic this April in Columbus and he was recently invited in the prestigious Big 33 All-Star game in Pennsylvania this summer.
Many kicking experts believe Spear has one of the most powerful legs in the country and Rivals.com rated him as the fourth most accurate of kicker in the country. He averaged 71.9 yards on kickoffs and posted a 4.03 hang-time during the Sailer National Spring Event in Las Vegas last May. Unlike most high school kickers, Spear has a lot of experience kicking off the ground on field goals and has used a 1-inch tee on kickoffs, making him more well-rounded for the college game.
He will compete with All-SEC Freshman kicker Ryan Fowler and second-year walk-on Richard Kent this fall at Vanderbilt.