After prepping at nearby West Allegheny High School, Dave Brytus matriculated to Purdue and averaged 40 and 39.5 yards per punt during the 2004-05 seasons, respectively. And after sitting out a season due to the transfer to Pittsburgh, Brytus averaged 39.6 yards per kick.
However, those numbers have begun to change drastically this season. After a mediocre opener (37.8-yard average on five punts), Brytus averaged 43 yards on two kicks in Game 2 against Buffalo and exploded for a 47.8-yard average against Iowa, including bombs for 60 and 57 yards to earn the Big East Conference's special teams player of the week honors.
"That's really a team award,'' Brytus said, doing his best to downplay it. "I owe a lot to our entire unit, because they all played really well. Mark Estermyer played really well. I've never had a bad snap from him. He really makes my job easier. I don't have to worry about anything with him as the long-snapper.
"Also, our coverage has gotten so much better this year. Those guys were terrific against Iowa. There were a couple punts where I really didn't hit them too well. They were pretty low, but our guys got down there and made some big plays. There's some hidden yards there that were important for us.''
Brytus' performance was especially significant late in the game against Iowa. With Pitt clinging to a one-point lead with 2:28 remaining and facing a 4th-and-nine at its own 42, Brytus boomed a 57-yard punt that rolled out of bounds at the Hawkeyes 1-yard line.
Starting in the shadow of its goal posts, Iowa never got beyond its 16, as Pitt clinched the victory by forcing and recovering a fumble by the Hawkeyes with 50 seconds remaining. Brytus' season average of 43.8 yards per punt ranks third in the Big East and 16th nationally.
"Obviously, I'll be happy with the 1-yard line,'' Brytus said. "I wasn't the hitting the ball as well as I liked early in the game. In pre-game, I was punting in the one direction toward the scoreboard, and it into a slight wind.
"So, I wanted to drive the ball instead of hanging it up. Obviously, I kicked it a little too low. Then, when we changed directions, I knew that if I got the ball up it would carry, because I've got a strong enough leg. So, that's what we did.''
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt added special teams coordinator to his duties this season and has preached a smooth operation, from snap to the punter to the coverage with a high kick as opposed to worrying about distance. Against Iowa, Brytus was able to add some distance to his high punts.
"Dave, obviously, had a fantastic game last week,'' Wannstedt said. "Those two final punts were a huge lift for our team. One had a hang time of five seconds, and the other was 4.75. For Dave to do what he's done is great.
"He's a conventional punter all his life, and he's accepted the challenge of this new (spread) formation. And he's done a great job. ... This allows us to work on our coverage, and it has gotten much better this season with every game.''
Iowa's punt returner, Andy Brodell, returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown the previous week, but the Panthers held him to less than six yards per return. Brytus appeared to be even more proud of that.
"Punting is a lot like golf, as far as I'm concerned,'' Brytus said. "When you're backed up toward your own end zone, you've got to pull out your driver. You've got to hit the ball long. And when you're in situations where you're at midfield, you've got to pull out the pitching wedge. You've got to get the ball up and place it right. (But) I just try to approach every punt the same way.
"That last punt, I really approached the same way I did the first one. I just want to go out there, do my job and place it where it's supposed to be. If I do that, good things will happen. ... As a punter, it can be a real good thing if you rarely play. That means your offense is moving the ball and scoring lots of points.
"I guess other things could be happening as well,'' Brytus added, "but basically it's good for a punter to stay on the sideline. You've almost got to cheer for your team to do bad for you to get on the field. You know how it is. 'Awe, they got the third down. I'll just stay here.' But like I've said before, it was great to contribute as much as I did.''
Being a punter basically is a thankless job where they aren't discussed unless they make a mistake or have long run-back against them. But when a punter hits one like Brytus last week, it almost was like a game-winning field goal.
"It was great to get those two big punts,'' Brytus said. "It fired me up, and it fired up my teammates. They were very excited. They wouldn't let me get off the field. I got mobbed. I almost broke my arm trying to get off there.
"But it was exciting. No doubt about it. I just was trying to do my job, and that's what I'm supposed to do. I just happened to have a couple pretty good punts and got some good rolls. But everybody on our unit had a pretty good day.''
Brytus Finally Booming
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