Accurate Snapper

Andrew Ritter has counted on Will Denny for a long time. Counted on him as a friend. Counted on him as a teammate. Counted on him as a snapper for placekicks.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

Denny and Ritter grew up in Jackson, playing little league baseball together, playing on all-star teams, eventually playing high school football together at Jackson Academy.

"We're really good friends, and we do go way back," said Ritter, in his fifth year with the Ole Miss football program. "He snapped to me all through high school and now he's snapping to me in college. This is his third year (after a redshirt freshman season of 2010). He's an extremely reliable guy. There's never a doubt and never has been a doubt that the snap is not going to be there. He's automatic."

Spoken like a friend but also simply being truthful. Will Denny is good at what he does.

"You've got to have a guy like that if a kicker is going to be successful," Ritter said. "And Denny, I can honestly say, is one of the best around."

Denny also snaps to Tyler Campbell on punts. Of course he actually doesn't snap the football straight to Ritter. There is a third party on placekicks - holder Chris Conley.

So fast-forward to last Saturday night. When Ole Miss needed a 52-yard field goal to pull closer to Texas at halftime in Austin, it was Denny who snapped the football to holder Conley, who then placed the ball down on the stadium floor. Ritter then headed for it – foot first.

Will Denny
Chuck Rounsaville

Ritter booted it through, and the Rebels trailed by just six points at intermission. After that they'd roll to a 44-23 victory, outscoring the Longhorns 30-0 beginning with Ritter's successful kick.

It was like the old days at Jackson Academy, when Denny snapped and Ritter kicked. Except this time 101,000 or so were watching.

Denny said while he and Ritter have worked as a "team" for a long time, there is a difference in performing at the two levels of football.

"The mental aspect is completely different from high school, "said Denny, whose father, Billy, played tight end for Ole Miss in the late 1970s and his brother, Matt, is currently a pitcher for the Rebel baseball team. "I played another position in high school, so I wasn't thinking about snapping all the time. When this is the only thing you're doing, it's everything you worry about all the time. You try not to worry about it. You just go out there and do what you've been doing every day. But it's definitely different."

Months and months of preparation, according to Ritter, is one of the biggest reasons they can be successful.

"We work on it all summer – me, Denny, and Conley – on getting timing and being automatic," Ritter said, and that's after spring football with the entire team. "Not only is Denny accurate on his snaps, his ball has a zip on it. So there's that zip, the speed he gets it back there, and the accuracy of it. We're trying to get a kick off in under 1.3 seconds. Him getting the ball back there fast and accurate makes that whole process speed up. The holder and the kicker then have a whole lot more time."

Andrew Ritter
Bruce Newman

Denny said it becomes second nature, and he can tell when he isn't 100 percent on a given play.

"When my snap is a little off, I can feel it," he said. "When you do it every day, it becomes muscle memory. If it's not working, you know it. You can feel it."

Denny said special teams work is an important part of each week's practices.

"The first part of the week on Tuesday we'll do two of our special teams," he said. "The next day we'll have meetings with punt return and kick return unit. So that's kind of how we do it. Then on Thursday we come together and do everything to get ready for Saturday."

Last season Denny was snapping for two other special teams kickers. Both Campbell and Ritter redshirted as Bryson Rose kicked and Jim Broadway punted. Denny said all agree it's worked out for the best.

"It's definitely been a blessing," he said. "It's given them an extra year to work on their crafts. I've seen a huge difference. Andrew's kicks are better. Tyler's always been good, too, and he came back just as good as he was the year before. It was all around good for everybody."

Getting the band back together, so to speak, has been great for all concerned, and for sure the team as a whole. But there is nothing like that repetitiveness and maturity that comes with being an older player and working together with the same people for several seasons.

"Confidence and trust are huge," Ritter said. "There can't be a doubt in my mind the ball won't be there. When you have a guy like Denny, and also Conlee as the holder, it makes things so much easier. I know Tyler feels the same way. You don't have to worry about them. You just have to do your own job."

Last season Rose kicked the game-winning field goal to defeat Arkansas in Little Rock. Denny was a part of that as Ritter and Campbell, an Arkansas native who played his high school games in War Memorial Stadium, watched.

Denny said that moment that day is the way things are supposed to be for special teams.

"They don't mention my name," he said. "But just to know you're in on something like that game-winning kick, it's awesome. Just a great feeling."

OM Spirit Top Stories