It's not every day that specialists--punters, kickers and even some rare cases long snappers--get scholarship offers. Pitt has had some good luck in recent years with walk-ons like Dan Hutchins and Conor Lee having productive careers. They also seen success in offering scholarships to punters--Andy Lee, for example. Lee went on to a stellar Pitt career, and is now a Pro Bowler for the San Francisco 49ers.
As a high school coach, you have to come up with a bit of a different gameplan in order to get your kickers exposed, with an even more limited opportunity for them to earn scholarships as opposed to other positions. Whatever the case, Drew Gordon's punter Ryan Winslow earned a scholarship offer from Pitt, and quickly decided to become a Panther.
"We sent out out together, a highlight tape," Gordon said. "We understand college coaches, what they want to see, maybe 10 or 12 plays. Luckily, we don't punt a lot."
His team may not punt a lot, and he doesn't even have a kicking coach to specifically work with players like Winslow. He credits Winslow's ability simply from working hard on his own and going to a lot of specialist camps. In game situations, playing the field position game, he says having someone with Winslow's abilities is a big advantage. LaSalle has made the state semifinals three years in a row.
"He's like a golfer," Gordon said, describing Winslow's punt. "He's had some good ones with hang time. I think that's so important. A lot of teams have trouble fielding the ball downfield. He's getting rid of the ball around 1.4 seconds.
"He also kicks off for us. He can drive the ball into the end zone. Colleges look for hang time."
Gordon said there was a little contact with the Pitt coaching staff initially. He knew Winslow had heard from Penn State and Ohio State. Winslow went to check out Ohio State, but the Buckeyes had just taken Johnny Townsend. On his way back home, Winslow stopped by Pitt's camp to workout for the Pitt coaches.
"When he went to Ohio State, he was in a groove," Winslow said. "When he went to Pitt, he stayed in that groove. They liked his hang time. They offered him on the spot. He liked them a lot, and Pitt has a great situation."