Meyer Stressing Blocking Punts

Urban Meyer hasn't said that the punt is the most important play in football, but Ohio State's head coach has stressed the importance of winning the punting battle. Meyer, however, knows big strides can be made to winning that battle when his punter is on the sideline, so he has assembled a group referred to as "the freak show" to block opposing punts.

Urban Meyer never said the punt is the most important play in football, but the head coach has stressed to his team that blocking one can make things a lot easier in the quest to win a football game.

Just like Jim Tressel, Ohio State's current head coach hasn't shied away from describing the vast implications the punt has on football games. Because of that, Meyer has spent an abundance of time during fall camp to ensure his team is aptly prepared to win the punting battle by personally overseeing special teams units.

But that doesn't mean the biggest strides in winning the punting battle will be made when senior punter Ben Buchanan is on the field.

"We want to come after it – we want to be a punt block team," Meyer said." And so that kind of tells you what the mentality that we have, our best players are on it."

Meyer has assembled a punt unit that has some of the fastest and strongest playmakers on the team. Also referred to as "the freak show," the group Meyer put together is going to be incredibly aggressive when the other team's punter trots onto the field.

This isn't a new point of emphasis for Meyer, who instilled dominance in the kicking game while at Florida that helped the Gators win two national championships in a three-year span.

Three of Meyer's Florida teams led the SEC in net punting and five of the six ranked in the top 10 nationally. Florida led the nation in Meyer's six years with the program by allowing only 361 cumulative punt return yards.

Taking it a step further, Meyer's Florida teams won all 16 of its games where its special teams units blocked a punt and never failed to block multiple punts in a season. The coach stressed to the Buckeyes that doing so will help change games dramatically.

"We want to change the game," Meyer said. "We play the game of field position, which means that any opportunity we can to go force a punt or after a bad punt we will. The best place to start would be a punt block. We're a team that one year we blocked I think NCAA record seven or eight in a year."

While the entire punt return/block team hasn't been revealed, certain members of the team that will come after punts were indicated. Bradley Roby, Travis Howard and Philly Brown – all speedsters – will be leaned on to get to the opposing team's punter as quickly as possible.

"I think anybody can block a punt on our team," senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said. "We have a ton of fast, athletic guys coming from all different intervals. You pick your poison, you block one of us and we have someone else who can block one."

In the search for a game-altering punt block, Meyer is even content with the risk of running into the kicker, a five-yard penalty.

"There's risk involved. Sometimes you run into a punter," Meyer said. "I had that meeting right away with our players. Understand, I don't need any complaining by the defense if we run into a punter here's why we do that.

"I have the field position chart that we live by. But I'd say very aggressive. And you see a lot of our good players on kicking. But I know Ohio State's always been very good on special teams. I don't know how much of a drastic change you'll see, other than we will go after a bunch of punts."

Sabino, who recovered a blocked punt and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown in Ohio State's 16-3 win over Purdue in 2008, remembers the biggest moment of his freshman year vividly.

Naturally, Sabino is psyched about the potential of Meyer's emphasis on blocking punts.

"There are studies that show if you block a punt in a game then you're like 90 percent likely to win that game," he said, reciting statistics he undoubtedly learned while Meyer instructed his team. "To give the other team that pressure, I think that's just something else to worry about and that will put things in our advantage."

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