Arkansas kicker Sam Irwin Hill is going back into his toolbox to break out something new when it comes to the Razorbacks.
Not only Will Irwin Hill (6-3, 215) – a preseason second-team All-SEC selection – punt this season, but he has also won the kickoff job, something the Australian native did while at City College of San Francisco.
The Ray Guy Watch List candidate, who had an SEC-leading 20 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, will show both off Saturday when Arkansas visits Auburn to open the 2014 season.
“When I was back in San Francisco, in my freshman and sophomore years I did handle the kickoffs and punts as well so I have some background it in and I am confident in myself, the team and special teams that we can get the job done,” Irwin Hill said.
He was happy that Arkansas assistant coach Rory Segrest – who handles the kicking and punting squads – offer him the opportunity.
“I was out there kicking kick offs and Coach Segrest came up to me and he said 'Sam, we want to put you in there.' So I went and kicked a couple deep and we went from there.”
Irwin Hill says that he has routinely been finding the end zone with his kicks.
“That's the main goal right now – do that and the coaches are confident in myself,” Irwin Hill said. “I have just got to get the job done.”
Irwin Hill averaged 44.3 yards per punt last season in his first year as a Razorback – his last one was a 65-yard one at LSU that was downed at the 1-yard line - and expects that average to grow this season.
“I am very confident in myself,” Irwin Hill said. “ Now that I have had a spring, a summer and a fall camp, I have been able to train myself and get a lot of wise words from the coaches themselves and focusing on the traditional style and just kicking 80 percent, it has definitely helped,” Irwin Hill said. “The lead up has been great and I can't wait to start at Auburn on Saturday.”
He is able to punt with both legs, but will just be kicking off with his right one.
“No, I only punt (with both legs), but I can't wait to be using the left and the right foot come game day in the punt area,” Irwin Hill said.
Hill believes it was a 75-25 split last season in favor of his right foot.
"Last year it was probably 75/25 right foot," Irwin-Hill said. "The dominant foot is the right foot. That's where the strength comes from and I want to focus on the NFL traditional style. I practiced a lot more this summer on the more traditional style so I am really looking forward to put that more in the game this year."
Irwin Hill talked about what goes into the decision with what foot he punts.
"If we have that gap and there's a little wind behind my back, Coach B has that confidence in me," Irwin-Hill said. "Or if there is a space open on that left side we could run the football. There are a lot of different things we can do and to have that versatility is really good."
Irwin Hill said his ability to punt with both feet was a product of Father Knows Best.
"It came from Australian Rules Football," Irwin-Hill said of kicking with either foot. "When I was four or five my dad took me out to a field and said 'Kick with both feet' or else he would take me home. So it was a big deal."
Segrest admits Irwin Hill's ability to punt with both feet is a new one for him.
“I can say I have not," Segrest said. "To me it's a great talking piece, but I just want him kicking where they fair-catch. If it's right-footed or left-footed or whatever it is just make sure to hang it up there in the right spot where they can't return it.”
Irwin Hill has also thrown a few passes in practice – something that he did twice in games last season on trick plays while also running for a first down off of a fake punt.
“I've got that tool box so there have been a couple of pigskins being thrown around so we like to keep the trick plays there. Absolutely.”
Irwin Hill Ready To Break Out His Toolbox
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