Noticed a couple of odds and ends as far as punter and punting facts that might be worth debating considering the SLOW board (when does the season start ... not soon enough!) It's a good bet that David Gerhardt is planning on filling us in soon with a specialist preseason preview, but in the meantime, I thought I'd start the conversation with a few "fun facts." (Fun Facts are after the jump...)
- By the numbers: Zach Grossnickle won the punting competition at the spring game ... in all categories that could be measured. Longest punt, longest hangtime, best average punt distance and best average hangtime.
- Darragh O'Neill was a few yards and a few seconds behind. They also got two punts each, so doesn't tell you much. However, one of the criticisms of O'Neill's season was the "line drive" punts ... and Grossnickle clearly has a better hangtime, giving our guys time to get downfield before the punt.
Spring 2012 stats (Camera):
Zach Grossnickle (0) .....2 .....92.. .... 46.0... ... 54 .... Hangtimes (unofficial) 4.7, 4.5
Darragh O'Neill (0) ........2...,.. 87....... 43.5...... 48 ..... Hangtimes (unofficial) 3.7, 4.1
- O'Neill has been named to the preliminary Ray Guy watch list, on the strength of his freshman season, however, so have nearly half of the Pac12 punters (notably, Jeff Locke (Sr.), UCLA, Jackson Rice (Sr.), Oregon, Sean Sellwood (Sr.), Utah) http://www.augustasportscouncil.org/whatsnew/Blog/post/ASC-announces-2012-Ray-Guy-Award-preseason-watch-list.aspx along with Pete Kontodiakos (Sr.), Colorado State. The best punter in the country last year was Bryan Anger at CAL, they are trying out freshmen this year to fill his cleats.
- On the other hand, special teams coach Brookhart said several times during the last season that Grossnickle was coming on strong, practicing well and Brookhart was frustrated with O'Neill for not following coaching instructions, which sometimes confused the rest of the team on the field. His claim that he was intentionally "tagging" opposing players with his punts was not supported by Embree or Brookhart, althought a certain Denver Post writer grabbed on the concept and made fun of it, saying if the buffs were letting an inexperienced non-football playing specialist call his own plays, we were in worse shape than he suspected.
- In its preseason position preview, ESPN says Colorado is in "good shape" at punter, but implies there's a competition, http://espn.go.com/blog/pac10/post/_/id/41421/pac-12-preseason-position-reviews-punter with: "Colorado: Darragh O'Neill was solid last year with a 42.6-yard average, but he's being challenged by Zach Grossnickle."
- Seems it would be unlikely that O'Neill would lose his starting spot, but on the other hand, Grossnickle's freshman year has to be taken with a grain of salt. He was punting behind a walk-on freshman snapper (since the bigger, and more accuarate Joe Silipo was in the doghouse was Hawkins for a rental bike incident for most of the 2010 season) and an odd, sometimes invisible blocking scheme that left the punter exposed and often hurried.
- Meanwhile, Grossnickle continues to work with kicking coach Paul Assad (Mason Crosby's pro coach) during the off season. Assad maintains on his facebook page that Grossnickle's one of the best college punters in the nation. Despite not actually playing.
Pretty much anybody's guess, but having watched Grossnickle boom the ball during warmups last fall, I sure hope he gets a shot this season, or at least gives O'Neill a run for his money during August drills. Grossnickle was one of the most highly sought after kickers as a senior in high school, seems a shame that he has been unable to find a spot to contribute for the Buffs.
Then again, if will Oliver doesn't come back 100% after spring shoulder surgery, maybe Grossnickle will fill in on kickoffs - his other high school specialty. According to his stats, he never kicked one out of bounds, although he kicked quite a few through the uprights. With the change in kickoff location (kickoffs now on the 35), coaches will be figuring out which is the best strategy, downing somewhere between the 1 and 10 yard line, or just kicking into the endzone for a sure touchback. Since - no matter whether the kicker is Oliver, Castor or Grossnickle - we'll be five yards closer to the endzone, one would hope we can hit it more often.