Consistency is Key

There were times Notre Dame punter Geoff Price would smoke a punt 50-60 yards down the field during pre-game warmups. Then there were those times he would shank them just as bad. That's what kept Price from winning the starting job his first three seasons.

Special teams coach Brian Polian had an idea of what his senior punter's problem was, he just needed help getting it through to Price. So with the connections he's gained through his father Bill, the president of the Indianapolis Colts, Polian arranged for Price to speak with former Notre Dame and current Colts punter Hunter Smith.

Polian mentioned to Smith what he thought Price's footwork was the problem with his consistency. The seven-year NFL veteran, who ranks second in Notre Dame history with a 41.2 punting average, took it from there.

"I expressed to Hunter what I thought Geoff's little idiosyncrasies were and the things that needed to get fixed," said Polian. "The two of them have had a couple of conversations. They've been very productive. And it's not that Hunter shared any great secret with him, that Hunter had the key that unlocked the door. I think sometimes it just very effective to hear it from another voice, because eventually I just become noise after a while. To hear another voice is always helpful, and then to have somebody who was a Domer that does it for a living in the NFL holds a lot of water." Polian was absolutely right about the footwork.

"When I talked to Hunter on the phone, it was just asking him what are some basic things that all punters do well," the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Price explained. "The first thing he started with was footwork. I noticed going back and watching myself on film, I think that was my biggest problem. Me being a long, lean guy, Hunter's a big, tall guy as well. He was talking about short steps, and I went back and looked at myself, and my steps were way too long. I was taking five yards to get the ball off. The major emphasis I tried to work on this off season was shorten the steps down and try to get the ball off from four to three-and-a-half yards. So the shorter the steps I take, I am behind the ball more and I have more power."

Polian was also right about the listening part as well.

"It's just nice hearing it from somebody who is a professional at it, and who does it for a living," Price said. "Not that coaches don't know, but a lot of coaches don't know how to kick, or a lot of people don't do it for a living. Here you have a guy, this is his profession, it sinks in a little bit more. You know to pay attention."

Head coach Charlie Weis told Price following the Fiesta Bowl he needed to get better for next season. Price watched film and set up drills to work on his footwork. The Hurst, Texas product would make a line or drop a towel for a mark. He would then take his punting position and get the ball off before crossing the line, learning how to minimize his steps.

"It's like trying to break a bad habit," Price said. "I'm still working on it. I'm not where I want to be yet. I still have room for improvement, There is still a lot of things I need to work on. It got better in the spring; it's continuing to get better now. Coach has been happy the way I've been hitting the ball, but I'm not. I know I can do better, so there is always room for improvement."

It's easy to see why the coaches are excited. Price said he averaged 56 yards on the four or five punts he had in Monday night's scrimmage. However, he would have liked to see his hang time be better, so take about 10 yards off of that.
,br> "I think Geoff Price has been one of the best surprises of both spring ball, and now to see the way his progress has continued here in this fall camp has been very encouraging," Polian said.

It's well known Weis likes to put pressure on his kickers during practice to simulate game situations. He also likes to do that with his punters.

"He'll just stand back there talking to me while I'm trying to kick," Price said. "That's worse than anything I can imagine. Like Georgia Tech, coming out I'm not scared of 80,000 people and national television. I'm scared of Weis about two yards behind me chirping in my ear saying all the things he can to get me to mess up."

He normally doesn't.

A standout at Colleyville Heritage High, Price averaged 45.6 yards per punt as a junior, and 39.5 the next season while playing with an ankle injury. He was one of the few punters in America to earn a scholarship.

There has been pressure for Price to get on the field from the get-go, but he was never able to win the starting job. He has made just two punts in three seasons, both coming his sophomore year. Those two punts are the only two returning boots on the roster. With the improvements Price has made, he finally has a stranglehold on the starting job.

"I want to feel like I've earned it, and I want to live up to my expectations," Price said of his scholarship.

The good news is he has two seasons of eligibility available. "I have a goal, my goal is to play. I don't want to just be here on vacation or whatever like coach Weis likes to call it. I want to prove myself and say I am worthy to be here," Price added.

If Price is having any doubts with that or has any more problems or questions, he can just talk to Smith again.

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