Former Utah State kicker Dominick Eberle set a new Mountain West Conference all-time mark for field goals when he hit four goals versus Wyoming in 2019. He also aced a game-winning field goal against Fresno State in 2019. Despite being a Lou Groza Award finalist in 2017, he dealt with a career-defining low point in the 2017 Arizona Bowl. DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous caught up with Eberle during the week of the 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl to talk about redemption, technique and confidence.
Corey: I want to take you to a game a couple years back. The Arizona Bowl (2017). That game. What did you feel like it did for you….the learning experience? Talk about that moment and how you built from that.
Eberle: That moment is something where I truly felt like I let my teammates down. I felt like I didn’t perform to the best of my abilities and it wasn’t gonna be something that I was gonna be remembered for. That was gonna be something where it has happened, but the learning experience from that, really challenging myself to whatever accolades came before that didn’t matter, because that was the last game I had played in. So I really wanted to make sure that that bitter taste out of my mouth kinda came out of that. Because just through hard work, really focusing on what I can do better and what I can control, that was something that I learned a lot from it and wanted to just consistently improve on every single day. And those are the lessons that you need as a kicker. You need to be mentally tough, you need to be able to just focus on the next kick because what happened doesn’t matter anymore. It shapes who you are but it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s always about the next kick. And that’s kind of the mentality that I took this year as well. It doesn’t matter if I made three field goals already, the fourth one, the next one is really the one I focused on. Just taking it one kick at a time.
Corey: I think you were like 18-of-22 (16-of-18) going into that game (2017 Arizona Bowl) or something like that. It was kind of crazy just how efficient you had been. Big reason the team was even in the bowl game, right? But did you find yourself punching at the ball in that game? What was it technically that you learned from it?
Eberle: From that game, I was wrapping around the ball a lot. If you look at the seam, I was hitting so far on the right seam where even though I had distance on it, it was just kind of shoot off your foot with a weird left rotation and spin out to the left of the upright. And that’s what I did on three of the field goals that game. And the very last one, I really just punched at it, it went right, hit the upright. That’s something where I looked at it where it was sometimes just trusting your technique isn’t enough. Sometimes you’ve gotta be really able to not revamp it, but add certain things that can help you. So what I did going into the next season (2018) was really following through straight and using my momentum, similar to Justin Tucker’s, to carry myself through the ball straight and have my hips pointing right at my target. That’s something that I worked with cone drills, just kicking the ball into the net. And that’s something where every single day I’m kinda working at that getting that consistency right through my target.
Corey: And talk a little bit about that. For placekickers, the target line is a big deal. That target line is really where you’re trying to get the ball to and in that sense, that’s really what you’re talking about from an explanation standpoint, right?
Eberle: Exactly. For us, when we’re facing our building side right between the S and T or the K and the S for Maverik Stadium (Merlin Olsen Field at Maverik Stadium, Utah State’s home field), small little gap. That’s something we’re always aiming at. It’s high up and everybody can see it and that’s my target line. So whenever I hit in that Allstate Hands (kicking net) or something, right down my target line. That’s something I always focus on in practice, whether it’s here (Tropicana Field, East-West Shrine Bowl), when I’m looking above you can kinda see the Tropicana Field. That’s something where I’m aiming at and really know if my ball is truly where I was gonna hit it.
Corey: One of the best kickers in Mountain West history. If there is one thing you feel good about translating the next level what would it be? In terms of moving forward to the next level. You’ve kicked off, are you going to be a touchback kicker in the NFL?
Eberle: I can certainly improve on kickoffs. The scheme was different this year (2019) than it was last year (2018: 64-percent touchback percentage). We tried to play the ball around a little bit more, steal a possession here or there, so my touchback percentages might of not have been near as similar…
Corey: Sky kicks.
Eberle: Exactly. Sky kicks, little pooch kicks.
Corey: Hang times to sometimes get a fair catch?
Eberle: Exactly. So that was kinda what we were working with this year rather than just telling me to boot the ball out of the end zone. I know I can do that but I’m more of a team player. Realizing against LSU we had a little pooch kick over to about the 30-yard line where we knew the guy wasn’t experienced catching the ball and maybe steal a fumble. So we pooched the ball over and he fumbled it but he recovered it rather than us. That is where I realized that can just as much of a weapon as just kicking the ball out of the end zone.
Corey: You talked about Justin Tucker (Baltimore Ravens) earlier, who were some of the other kickers that you study at the NFL level with some of those technique we were talking about?
Eberle: Shayne Graham (15-year NFL veteran with 14 teams) would be one as well. He was really consistent. He was someone that when I first was learning to become a kicker was still playing in the league. He was with the Bengals at the time, bounced around with the Saints and everything. I was watching him and how smooth he sometimes appeared where it looked effortless. Will Lutz (New Orleans Saints) as well, he has incredible ball-striking ability. That’s something I want to learn from him. And just Adam Vinatieri (Patriots, Colts). The more you read about him or hear stories about him, he had that killer instinct in the fourth quarter. He was so in the zone that you knew he wasn’t going to miss.
Corey: Thanks a lot for your time and best of luck in the draft.
Eberle: Thanks a lot.