By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Maikon Bonani and Justin Brockhaus-Kann traveled a long way to get a head start on the upcoming football season.
USF's senior kicker and punter made an eight-hour drive to Prattville, Ala. late last week to attend coach Mike McCabe's One on One Kicking Camp. The Bulls' kicking duo competed Friday through Sunday against some of the best talent in the country that included Louisiana Tech and Ray Guy award winning punter/kicker Ryan Allen; Boston College kicker and Lou Groza Award watch list member Nate Freese; Clemson kicker Spencer Benton; former Clemson punter and current Atlanta Falcon Dawson Zimmerman; former Oregon State punter and current St. Louis Ram Johnny Hekker and Kentucky kicker Craig McIntosh, also on the Lou Groza watch list.
Bonani recently made the Lou Groza Award watch list for the second straight year and USF's career leader in field goals was excited about teeing it up against some of the best kickers at his position.
"What helps a lot, just to become better, is to compete with the best," he said. "When you see new kickers and new faces that you don't know very well, you kind of bring your 'A' game. It ends up bringing out the best in you and it's a really neat experience."
Bonani made 19 of his 26 field goal attempts in 2011 that included a trio of three field goal games a year after the former Lake Wales High School star set a program record in single-season field goal percentage (80.9).
"I felt better than ever before I came to this camp to be honest. I felt like I was kicking the best I've ever kicked, really confident and really feeling good," Bonani said. "This opportunity came up and I said, 'Why not get that much better?'"
Bonani got talked into attending the camp by Brockhaus-Kann, who has gone to it the past three years and has trained with McCabe since high school. McCabe is a former All-American and pro punter who now serves as an instructor for some of the top football programs in the nation.
Bonani and Brockhaus-Kann arrived at the camp on Thursday afternoon, spent Friday helping out with the high school attendees and used Saturday and Sunday to thoroughly examine their techniques through film study. Both players admitted they didn't need much motivation to bring their best against the other big names in the sport.
"You're not going to take a day off because you want to beat the best guys - NFL guys, college guys," Brockhaus-Kann said. "That's how you consistently grow as a punter or kicker."
Brockhaus-Kann took full advantage of the camp's benefits before he gets back into the battle for USF's top punting spot when fall camp begins in early August. The fifth-year senior has been the team's primary punter for the past two years, but he's been challenged by redshirt freshman Mattias Ciabatti since the spring.
"Going through the past two seasons starting strong and then not finishing very well has given the coaches the question of if I've got the capabilities to do this. Coming out of spring, I felt I did pretty well, but just not enough to pull away," Brockhaus-Kann said. "Coming up here, I'd say this is the first time I've been completely healthy in four years and I'm hitting the ball better than I ever have. Training with these guys makes me feel I can come back to Tampa and consistently do it all season."