Rob Park works to continue to punt for Rebs

Rob Park punted last season for Ole Miss. He wants to do so again this season.

Coach Ed Orgeron has said this summer the punting situation is open. Park, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior from Memphis, wants to be the one in that role.

"There'll be competition again, and I'll try to win my spot again," said Park, who also punted for the Rebs in 2005. "Competition will make us all better."

Park punted in all 12 games last season. He finished the year ranked fifth in the SEC with a 38.9 yard average and had 16 punts downed inside the 20. He started working to improve those numbers last offseason and throughout the spring and summer.

"Last year I think I got a lot better toward the end of the season," said Park, who actually had one of his best days early as he averaged 47.3 yards in the season opener against his hometown Memphis Tigers including a season-long 57 yarder. "The last two weeks of spring practice this year, I saw a lot of improvement in my game."

It was in the spring that he felt he made a move toward becoming the punter he wants to be.

"I had a good spring. I worked on a lot of fundamentals. There were some new guys on the punt protection team, so at the beginning of spring we worked on getting those new guys in there. I had a good protection unit and I got some solid punts off. I think we had a positive spring punt-team wise."

This summer he has worked more on fundamentals as he continues to strive for improvement.

"Punting is all about being consistent and your drop and your leg swing. You have to stay real flexible. That's what I concentrated on this summer. With all our workouts this summer, it's very important to stretch and stay limber. Leg swing and extension are so important. You don't want to get stiff."

Park, who punted in 10 games in 2005 as a freshman with an average of 38.2 yards, says he's improved in all areas of punting since last season.

"I feel like I get the ball off extremely well. Usually that's in like 1.9 or 2 seconds every time. I just need to do that consistently. I feel like my hang time is a positive. My pooch-punting from the 50 in is one of my strengths. This summer I've been working to get my average up to 42 yards instead of it being 39. I need to keep increasing that. I was like fifth in the SEC in net punting last year. I want to be in the top three this year."

Park, who played high school football for Memphis University School, says it's hard to fathom this is his third year in college.

"It's gone by quicker than I thought it would. It's hard to believe that I'm already one of the veterans on the team and not one of the freshmen and sophomores. I want to become a leader of the special teams. That's my goal."

The 20-year-old Park will welcome his younger brother, Michael, to Ole Miss this fall. Michael will pitch for Rebel baseball.

"I'm excited. I talk to him a lot," Rob said. "He's getting here in August as soon as he can. He's a great guy and a great athlete. I think he'll have a very good career here at Ole Miss."

That's Rob's plan, too, and he enters the fall with his college career already at its midpoint.

"It's always an exciting time as August gets close," he said. "I'm looking forward to the season."

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