Cougs’ punter doesn’t need to have huge leg

THE IMPORTANCE OF the punting game is regularly overshadowed by what takes place on offense and defense. But games are won and lost because of field position. Whether the Cougs’ new punter in 2014 is Wes Concepcion, Jon Weilbacher, Jordan Dascalo or someone else, he doesn’t need to have a booming leg to become one of the Pac-12’s best.

Hang time and proper direction are far more important. Look at what the Seattle Seahawks did last year.

The Seahawks allowed just 82 punt return yards in the regular season by changing their approach this past season.

They had their punter switch up from trying to boom every punt to instead go after the maximum combination of hang time and directional punting. Only 21 punts were returned.

And until a poor punt outing on the final Sunday of the regular season, Seattle was poised to set the all-time NFL record for fewest punt return yards allowed.

A consistent, rocket leg is simply hard to come by in a college punter. And even if your guy kills it, if he hits it down the middle of the field and out-kicks the coverage, a big return is often the result.

Instead of a lofty, graceful spiral, some punters have gone to an end-over-end boot to maximize their ability to direct the kick where they want it, and to maximize the chances it will be downed. The punt itself might not look pretty, but the net punting number sure does.

Washington State ranked No. 93 nationally in net punting last season at 35.69 yards, and WSU assistant Eric Russell has consistently mentioned this offseason the Cougs “have to get better” in the punting game.

An improvement of just three yards would have put the Cougs in the top 25 nationally in net punting.

That extra three yards, (and perhaps more) won't necessarily require a big leg, just better hang time and direction.

Bob Davie, head coach at New Mexico, laid out the following measurements for a successful punting game: a long snap within .08 seconds; the punter's catch and kick time within 1.4 seconds for a total operation time of 2.2 seconds. The minimum hang time for a 40-yard punt, says Davie, should be at least 4.1 seconds.

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