Florida Punter Has Illini Scholarship Offer

The punting game is an extremely important part of football, and yet most punters are asked to enroll in college without benefit of a scholarship. It is rare when a punter is offered a scholarship prior to his junior year in high school. Floridian Justin DuVernois has an offer from the Illini, and he visited this past weekend.

Justin DuVernois traveled with his family from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to see the Illinois campus and get better acquainted with Illini coaches. Watching the Illini scrimmage before returning home Saturday, he said he felt comfortable in Champaign-Urbana.

"I've enjoyed my trip. The campus and everything is real nice, the facilities are real nice. I came in Thursday night. I've been here before for a summer camp."

DuVernois attended a kicking camp run by Tim Williams last June in Champaign. He was impressive enough to be offered an Illinois scholarship.

"I punted it pretty well, so later on after the camp they called me in, talked about the offer and about me coming to visit."

While it may not not sound like a ringing endorsement, DuVernois is considering the Illini offer.

"Right now, it's the only offer that I have, so I'm definitely considering it."

At least, it is a compliment to be offered so early.

"Right. Coach Mitchell (Reggie, now at Kansas) told me I was the first punter to be offered in five years by Coach Zook. It's a good feeling."

When one discovers his lack of previous high school experience, one might wonder if Zook was crazy to commit a scholarship offer to DuVernois.

"Last year I only punted once. I had a senior ahead of me, so I had a 38 yard average. I had one punt inside the ten, so that was about it."

However, it must be understood he was the understudy for Michael Palardy, who will be on scholarship at Tennessee this fall. Palardy is ranked the number 3 kicker/punter in the nation by Kornbluekicking.com and #4 as strictly a punter.

In addition, St. Thomas Aquinas is consistently one of the nation's most powerful high school football programs. They rarely need to punt because they have so much talent.

"Everyday you go out to practice, you see so many great players going Division I. And this year we have the same thing. It's pretty neat to be playing with them every day."

DuVernois was asked his strengths as a punter.

"I think I'm pretty consistent. That's what I try to work on. I don't try to hit 60 yard punts. I try to get a 45 yard average with good hang time. I'm a 1 and 1/2 step punter."

He works constantly to improve his game, including mastering the art of downing punts near the goal line.

"Yeah, I try to bounce back my punts near the goal line. I try to get a lot of hang time on it, just try to get it up there so it will bounce back. I'm also trying to work on coffin corner kicks."

Few schools know about him yet, although that may change once his high school season begins. He has a childhood favorite, but the Buckeyes signed a top kicker/punter for this recruiting class.

"Right now, the only other school I've talked to is Kansas. My grandparents went to Ohio State, so I've been liking Ohio State. But I think Illinois is real nice."

Perhaps the result of his heritage, DuVernois feels more comfortable in cooler climates. So he is amenable to traveling North for college.

"Florida is nice with the weather and everything. But I think it's too hot. I like the weather in the Midwest."

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