MADISON - Drew Meyer takes the approach that each game is its own entity, independent from the ones before it or after it. It’s one of the main reasons the senior punter from Hartland, Wis., doesn’t obsess over his statistics, good or bad.
“Every game is different, every situation is different and this season coming up every game will be different,” said Meyer. “You just learn throughout the process. Every year you try to get better as a player. That might not always show in the statistics or the results.”
That’s not to say Meyer has been completely satisfied with where he is at. Since being named an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as a redshirt freshman, Meyer’s punting average, distance and accuracy inside the 20 have all dipped, including career lows in all three categories a year ago.
Granted the approach to punting changed the last two seasons (former head coach Gary Andersen called for more pooch punts and rugby style kicks to help the Badgers’ coverage units), but the numbers are what they are. Instead of using the word “disappointment” to describe his last two seasons, Meyer focuses on the word “learning.”
“You have to take positives away from every situation and try to learn from it the best you can, even when they might not be going your way or in the favor of your team,” said Meyer.
Putting together his first coaching staff after getting hired in December, head coach Paul Chryst brought Chris Haering with him from Pittsburgh to focus solely on Wisconsin’s special teams. It’s a change from past seasons when Wisconsin would assign a specific special teams unit to an assistant coach but a change designed to have maximum attention put on the units.
That’s where former Wisconsin kicker Taylor Mehlhaff comes in. While Haering is heavily involved working with the schemes, Mehlhaff, who holds the title of quality control-special teams for the Badgers, is working intently with UW’s kickers and punter.
And if anyone knows how to succeed at Wisconsin in the special teams department, it’s Mehlhaff. During his four-year career, Mehlhaff made 76.9 percent of his field goal attempts and was an All-American his senior year after going 21 of 25. As fate would have it, a plaque acknowledging that achievement hangs in the room where the special teams have their meetings.
“This stadium is one of the harder ones for kickers and punters with the wind condition because it swirls so much in here, and Taylor is a great resource,” said Meyer. “He has a tremendous knowledge of the game mechanically and technique wise. He knows a lot of strength and conditioning and how to prepare us so we peak during the season at the right time.”
Meyer has known Mehlhaff for eight years, working out together when Meyer was at Hartland Arrowhead and Mehlhaff had been drafted by the New Orleans Saints. Studying film together in the offseason, Mehlhaff has worked with Meyer on cleaning up his hands to catch the ball cleaner and go through the entire punting process smoother.
“That will set you up for a great job, which is the key to punting,” said Meyer. “We’re looking back at ways that I can improve my hands and get a better drop. We talked about getting after it every day. Whether it’s extra stretching in the weight room, taking extra reps or drops, Taylor has a huge work-first mindset. We try to be lunch-pail guys as we come out to work every day and try to get better.”
Although he hasn’t faced a position battle in camp, Meyer has grinded though each rep like he’s fighting for his job. He has implemented the teaching points from Mehlhaff and spent a good portion of his offseason studying sports psychology to make sure is confidence level stays high. With the opener against No.3 Alabama six days away, the senior feels he’s ready to execute when called on.
“I think he’s had a good approach to it,” said Chryst. “The group of specialists is a good mix of guys, and I think they enjoy working together and helping each other. Unity drives a lot of that, which is really cool. I think he’s maturing as a player, person and athlete.”