Quiet Difference Maker

Freshman Punter Will Gleeson may be the most overlooked "star" on the 7-0, 3rd-ranked Rebel football team, but what he has done so far this season has been crucial to the Rebs' success.

For a quarter and a half last Saturday against Tennessee, the Ole Miss offense couldn't get much going and had poor field position.

Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze - with his defense playing so well - wasn't about to take any chances until he figured out the new-look UT defense so he put the game - for a while - on the shoulders of freshman Punter Will Gleeson.

Tennessee, not generating much offense either, did the same with senior Punter Matt Darr.

Neither was giving up and inch of turf in their head-to-head battle.

"That was a lot of fun," said the seemingly unshakeable Gleeson in his Australian accent. "Of course, I always want the offense to do well and not have to punt, but when I do, I know I've got a job to do."

And do his job well he did. . .

Gleeson ended the night with nine punts, the same as Darr. Will averaged 48.2 yards a kick and nailed four inside the 20 while Darr, who also had a good night, had nine punts for a 45.6 yard average and put three inside the 20.

A couple of times, Will was backed up deep in Rebel territory. His thought process?

"Get off time. We want to be under two seconds, counting the snap. Also, just making good contact," he said. "You want to flip the field, but the main thing is getting it out of there and making good contact."

Gleeson has consistently been under 2 seconds and his contact, whether rugby style or sky kicks (traditional punts) has been just as consistent.

Although he is averaging 45.5 yards per kick and is third in the nation in net punting - the stat that matters the most - at 43.32 yards a kick, he feels he can do better.

"I'd like to get more hand time on my sky kicks and I've had a couple of shanks on the rugby kicks I can improve on," he stated. "Besides that, I am relatively pleased."

Rugby or sky, Will has no preference.

"I like them both. Whatever Coach (Tom) Allen feels will suit the situation, that is fine with me. I'm probably more comfortable with rugby punts since I have been doing that a lot longer, but I can keep decent mechanics either way," he explained. "I'll do whatever we decide is best for the situation. We take into account the wind and how I'm feeling and then decide between us."

Gleeson cut his teeth and sharpened them kicking in Australian Rules Football, where he'd play in front of "2,000, maybe 3,000" fans. He's already played in front of 110,000 at Texas A&M, packed houses at Vaught-Hemingway and will face another rowdy crowd Saturday in Baton Rouge.

"It's exciting. The Texas A&M fans didn't do any trash talking. They were easy-going. We don't expect that at LSU," he smiled.

LSU Punter, junior Jamie Keehn, and Gleeson have some history.

"He's from Australia and we trained at the same sports academy," said Gleeson. "I talked to my coach last night and he told me I have to beat him. Net average and inside the ten will be the determining factors."

Keehn is from Miner's Rest, Australia, and is 6-4, 220. He's punted 45 times thus far and has a 45.5 average per punt and a 41.4 average in net punting, 8th in the country. He's also nailed 18 punts inside the 20. Keehn won the nationals in high school in rowing and the javelin throw and is a powerful, mature athlete.

Gleeson, from Melbourne, is a 6-3 189 pounder, and has only punted 32 times. He has the same gross punting average (45.5), a better net and has landed 16 punts inside the 20 - half his kicks. He was also an accomplished high school athlete, winning state titles in the long jump and high jump.

"I hope we don't have to punt, but if we do, it will be fun to match punts with Jamie," noted Gleeson. "He's an Aussie who has done well and that makes me proud too."

Will is kind of low-key personality-wise, but he can't contain his excitement about the season so far.

"It's been phenomenal. We have exceeded my expectations," he said. "Winning is incredible."

Gleeson can still roam the Ole Miss campus is relative anonymity - he ain't Bo Wallace, after all, but if he keeps performing like he has, he will start getting recognized more and more.

"I don't get much attention right now - a few people will recognize me, but that's OK with me. I just want to do my job," he closed. "

Will Gleeson may be the least recognizable football star on campus, but make no mistake about it - a star he is.


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