Tyson Helton hasn’t held back on the confidence he has in his freshman kicker.

Western Kentucky’s coach thinks Cory Munson’s strong leg and raw talent can make up for the mental transition of kicking in high school last year to the Division I college level now.

He compared Munson to a fictional baseball player given a similar mentality.

“I haven’t said this to him, but I love the old movie ‘Major League,’ ” Helton said with a grin at his weekly news conference Monday. “Vaughn, the Wild Thing, that’s what he is to me. He’s got a strong leg. He can kick it from any distance, but he’s a young freshman kicker.”

Munson, born over a decade after Charlie Sheen portrayed a Rick Vaughn character who couldn’t control his lethal fastball, hasn’t seen the movie but embraces the confidence from his coach.

Munson has kicked in every game for the Hilltoppers and is 7-for-11 on field goals this season with a career-long of 44 yards. He’s twice been named the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week for being the difference when WKU’s offense failed to score touchdowns and for consistently preventing kick returns with touchbacks.

“Coming in, they told me I’d definitely be able to compete and I took it to heart and had an advantage by having the first two games and took it from there, been working ever since,” Munson said. “I’m pretty comfortable, pretty strong, I think.”

The 6-foot-3 Warner Robins, Ga., native signed with WKU in the spring over offers from Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

He kicked a 59-yard field goal as a junior at Northside High School and was rated the fifth-best kicker in the country by 247sports. Munson was recruited by former coach Mike Sanford’s staff and said he felt even more comfortable when the current regime took over.

Munson was given the job from the jump when redshirt senior Alex Rinella learned he’d be academically ineligible for the first two games. Helton issued clear confidence in his freshman kicker from the start.

Munson missed his only field goal shot on a 32-yard attempt in the season-opener against Central Arkansas. But he went on to make his next four attempts over two games that helped him earn the weekly C-USA honors.

“First game was definitely nervous,” Munson said. “First kick I probably missed it from the nerves but I got right back out there and didn’t bat an eye, didn’t put my head down and I came back the next game strong.”

Munson kept the job when Rinella was eligible to return in Week 3. Helton said he would consider giving Rinella a look on kickoff duties, but Munson has taken all of those as well, putting 17 of his 26 kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks.

He’s handled all placekicking duties and is a perfect 4-for-4 inside the 30-yard line. He’s 3-for-7 longer than that and perfect on 15 extra-point kicks.

“For us to expect him to hit them all down the pipe, it’s just not going to happen,” Helton said. “He’s going to be that way as a young freshman kicker. I’m glad he’s with us because he’s talented. We’re going to be counting on him down the stretch to make a kick here and there.”

Helton, who’s held special teams coordinator titles in previous assistant jobs, is careful for now on where he’s asking Munson to kick. The coach offered that when it came down to a fourth-and-6 that would’ve asked Munson to kick at least a 45-yarder from the left hash, it may not have been the best thing to ask of the freshman. WKU went for it on that fourth down, but didn’t convert.

A similar situation later in the game, but in between the hashes, gave Munson a better look from 46 yards out, but he missed the attempt.

Munson embraces the trial by fire approach now and also likes the pressure put on his performance. WKU’s two wins against FIU and UAB were one score margins decided by the two field goals Munson made.

“It helps a lot,” Munson said. “My high school coach had the same confidence in me. Miss or make, you’re going to go back out there and try again for us and you can always get another kick. It definitely boosts my confidence to have him have confidence in me.

“I’ve always liked pressure. Having these games that are pretty tight, I’m on the sideline ready to go out there and win the game or help out there. I like the pressure.”{&end}

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.


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