If Dave Brader is correct, recruiting interest in Belleville East senior placekicker Matt Sotiropolous is about to enter another realm.
Sotiropolous, who kicked nine field goals last season, including a 53-yarder Oct. 3 against Belleville West and a 52-yarder Oct. 23 against Collinsville, will participate for the Blue squad in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl on Jan. 16 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
Brader, Sotiropolous’ coach with Husted Kicking for the past four years, expects coaches to take notice of his student’s skill set. Brader has difficulty understanding how the 5-foor-11, 170-pound Sotiropolous has slipped through the cracks this long.
“He should be playing with a big Division I college. There’s no question that he has the ability to play big-time college football,” Brader said of Sotiropolous. “I can’t believe more people aren’t noticing him. In my personal opinion, he’s a better kicker than (Tucker) McCann. It just boggles my mind that a kid like Matt hasn’t had more exposure.”
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McCann, a senior at O’Fallon, has already given a verbal commitment to Missouri. McCann kicked six field goals last season, including a 53-yarder and a 52-yarder. McCann also blasted a state-record 60-yarder in his junior season in 2014 against Belleville East.
Another kicker, Belleville West graduate Austin Seibert, is completing his freshman season at Oklahoma and this week was named to ESPN All-America True Freshman Team.
“I don’t know if I’m going that big,” Sotiropolous said, referring to a school like Oklahoma. “But I would like to think I’m just as good as anybody. At this point, I’m just looking for an offer that fits academically with football. I’m looking for a good school with computer science.
“I’m in no rush right now. I don’t mind waiting it out.”
He should be playing with a big Division I college. There’s no question that he has the ability to play big-time college football. I can’t believe more people aren’t noticing him. ... It just boggles my mind that a kid like Matt hasn’t had more exposure.
Kicking coach Dave Brader on Matt Sotiropolous
Brader said Sotiropolous’ leg strength also manifests itself in kickoffs that typically result in touchbacks.
“Matt had a couple of onside kicks, and his average was like 58 (yards) or whatever it was,” Brader said. “If his coaches had marked it where it went out in the back of the end zone or where it hit in the end zone, he would have had a 68-yard average.”
Brader said Sotiropolous has gained some attention from Louisville. Sotiropolous said he has talked to McKendree Univeristy coach Mike Babcock and said he likes the Division II school.
“It’s a really good academic school,” Sotiropolous said. “It’s something to think about.”
Brader predicts the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl will “be a huge opportunity” for Sotiropolous.
You’ve got to have fun with it, but I know I have to do well. I’m not too worried about it. I think it will be fun.
Matt Sotiropolous on playing in Blue-Grey All-American Bowl on Jan. 16
“When coaches down there and meet him and interact with him and see what kind of kid he is, I think he’s going to come out of that game better than if he wasn’t invited to that game,” Brader said. “At these kind of events, coaches talk. He will get noticed. He was selected, from the whole country, to be one of probably seven or eight specialists to attend this thing.
“That’s a pretty good honor. When people find out he isn’t going anywhere yet, they’re going to be licking their chops. ... This year, there are six seniors that we’re coaching, and I would say of those six guys, Matt is the top one or two, hands-down. From a character standpoint, he’s probably one of the best kids I’ve ever coached.”
Sotiropolous is looking forward to the event.
“You’ve got to have fun with it, but I know I have to do well,” Sotiropolous said. “I’m not too worried about it. I think it will be fun.”
Brader said he wouldn’t be surprised if Sotiropolous doesn’t sign until after National Letter of Intent Day, which is Feb. 3.
“A lot of teams have been courting guys and trying to get them to go to their program,” Brader said. “They’re going to end up signing with somebody else. That’s going to open the door for guys like Matt and other kids. They’re not worried about kickers and punters now, either.
“Matt will sign somewhere. It wouldn’t surprise me if the middle of February comes around and he’s got some pretty good offers from some of these schools who thought they were going to get a running back out of Chicago, and he didn’t go there. The scholarship opens up and then they can bring Matt in.”
Sotiropolous also punted at Belleville East, but he and Brader agree that Sotiropolous’ future clearly will be as a kicker. Flexibility, Brader said, is what Sotiropolous needs.
“He is so technically sound right now,” Brader said. “No question, he can hit the mid-50s on field goals. My big thing, what I want to see, is high 3s and low 4s (in hangtime) on kickoffs and getting the ball into the back of the end zone. Right now, that’s the one area he is kind of lacking, but it’s not because of lack of strength. It’s lack of flexibility.”
Considering how far Sotiropolous already has come under Brader’s guidance, it would be no surprise to see continued development.
“I didn’t know anything. He’s pretty much taught me everything,” Sotiropolous said. “I know (Seibert and McCann) are on a different level now. Austin and Tucker are something else to watch. I’ve kicked with them and it’s just crazy. I’ve talked to them a lot.
“I’ve just got to keep working at it. A lot of it will come from being flexible.”