A.J. Trapasso showed a nice leg when he hit the ball cleanly and with good form. He just needs to become more consistent. He could still end up being the starter this year… BUT Josh Huston has improved in a big way since last fall. Last fall, Huston, Hawk, and occasionally Zwick punted. All three shared some traits. Notably, none of them hit consistently for distance and none of them (or their teammates) knew where the ball was ultimately going to land. Huston hit some nice punts on a fairly consistent basis. He is no Sander or Groom yet, but he is getting there. AND don't leave out Kyle Turano as the darkhorse. Kyle is a walk on who has put in his time at Ohio State and is giving this his best shot.
How did it feel?
"It felt great today. I got some good kicks in and got some work out to play in the stadium so I am pretty excited."
Talk a little about some of the fakes.
"Well, yeah they just said we were going to run some fakes today. It just so happened to be my turn when I was punting. It is my type of fake – a run around the corner. It worked out. I think we got ten yards for the first down."
What about the holding?
"That is something new for me. I never did that in high school. It is a requirement up here, so I really have a lot of work to do on that."
How did you do kicking the ball in your opinion?
"I did ok. I still have a lot of improvement to do – being consistent. I have the rest of the spring and summer to work on it, and I am going to have to work my best."
How is the speed of the game standing back there?
"Everyone is bigger and faster and stronger, so the game speed is definitely a lot faster than high school, and that is another thing I am going to have to get used to."
Coming in early, how tough was that on you?
"It was tough to make the decision, but I am glad I did because it has allowed me to get some work in and get an opportunity like this today."
How do you feel like you punted today?
"I was consistent with my distance and my hang, but I did not hit the ball real well. I feel like it went off the inside of my foot a little bit. I could have done better, but the first day getting real looks – it looked pretty good."
Talk about the nerves and excitement of getting into the stadium for reps today.
"Yeah, being a backup for two years, you don't get many reps, so it was real nice coming out here and I think I punted like 10-12 times, so it is a different atmosphere than punting at Woody Hayes."
What about holding the football – that gets overlooked way too often.
"Holding is important. Mike requests a certain ball, and it is my job to give him a certain ball. So, we had one or two mishaps, but we are just feeling each other out, getting comfortable with each other."
How does Mike like the football for him to kick it?
"He likes the ball pointed toward me a little bit. I have to make sure I hit the spot every time."
Is it a pressure situation for you then?
"I don't see it as a pressure situation. Our snapper is a third year starter, and he has had one bad snap in what – 26 games? So, that is a pretty good percentage. Really, I have no pressure. I just have to yell out the signal and put the ball down and catch it."
Clearly you have put in some time to get to this point. How rewarding is it to work under a coach who will let you play if you earn it?
"It is a great feeling. Most schools, I probably would have been off the team a long time ago since my fourth year here. He keeps giving me a chance, and I'm making the best of it right now."
What would you like to do this year?
"I want to punt, I want to kick off – I want to do it all. I didn't come here to watch the game from the sidelines. Whatever Coach Tressel needs me to do or thinks I can excel at, I would like to be able…"
You are getting more air under the ball this year than last fall when you punt. What are you doing now?
"I've worked with B.J. and Andy and they have helped me with some stuff – clearing my hips, getting underneath it. [I'm] working on driving the ball up instead of forward. When you're kicking field goals it is more of a forward than up. Tweaking the technique."
Did you do much punting in High School?
"No. I punted in some games my junior year because, ‘hey, I'm a kicker so let's throw him in there and see if he can punt,' but Nate Fry, the punter for Bowling Green, was there. He ended up punting well so I could just concentrate on kicking and kickoffs."
You were recruited as a place kicker but could end up with the punting job.
"Yeah, not a lot of people realize that, but I have been working at this for a year and a few months now, and I'm doing pretty well. I have to work on consistency. But, like today, I'm capable – have a good leg, and I can hit the ball. I just have to do that every time and I'll be alright."
How is the redshirt situation – are you still hoping to get that extra year?
"I had two surgeries my freshman year in my left knee – couldn't kick even if I wanted to . Then in 2002, I had a right knee and right hip during the season, and I couldn't kick. That's what the NCAA looks at. I'm progressing on my major, and I think it will be just a matter of if Coach Tressel wants to give me that year. I think he will. I think I showed him a little bit today that I still have it. Hopefully he will have confidence in me."
How much of a concern was it for you as a kicker to start having these surgeries?
"It sounds like, "OH!" but my left knee was just a weird one. I had a tendon that was popping out of place…it would pop in and out, and every time I planted it popped. So, they went in there…and now it's as good as new. I have no structural damage at all. My right knee is just from the constant [kicking]. I had a bunch of scar tissue in there, so they cleaned it out because I tore my labrum in my hip. It is just a little piece of cartilage. It wasn't that bad but [it was] just enough for a kicker to throw you off. They just fused that together. I was going to be out for the season so I said might as well clean out the knee too."
What has held you back while at OSU from performing at the level you would like?
"Well, first year was just all mental. We both had a bad mental game, but he had a little better and came out on top. Injuries just kept me down. Right before the 2002 year, I just kept feeling my leg go numb every kick, and it was just killing me. I finally went up to the Cleveland Clinic, and they told me what was going on. I had surgery, rehabbed a lot. Now I am physically fine, and my mental game is just there now. When I go out to kick a ball it is not, ‘Oh, am I going to make this? If I miss this, I'm out.' Now it's just right down the middle. It's a confidence thing."
Do you want to get that 6th year?
"I am excited that I have the possibility to get it, and I think Coach Tressel – if he has confidence in me – will want me back again. I think the NCAA will see I was unable to play and injury robbed my playing time here. Hopefully that will all come through, and I will get the opportunity to do all three things my senior year."
I have yet to see Brian Pierce kicking this spring…
"No, he's not on the team anymore. I'm not sure what the deal is with that. I just know he's no longer with the team."
Say you get that sixth year, OSU is still bringing in competition for you.
"When I'm in my sixth year, I am going to be a 23-year old senior. I am going to be competing against 18 year old kids. Physically and mentally, I will feel more mature. I won't see it as competition really. I will see it as someone who is on my team, trying to play. When I came in with Nuge, I was so focused on him and I competing and that sort of thing. Now Nuge is my boy, he is my friend, and we go out and try to do the best we can. I'm happy for him when he makes that 54 yard field goal, and he's happy for me when I make the game winning field goal. When they do bring in someone because you are at Ohio State – you are not going to not have competition. You are not going to be given anything. As long as I come up there and act like a 23-year old senior and kick like one, then I'll play."