When the offense fails to convert and a punter's number is called upon, the punter can make or break a defense's momentum. A shank or poor kick means the defense has a short field to work with and, more times than not, is going to give up a score. A great punter is able to drop a kick inside the 10-yard line, pinning the opposing offense back against their own goal line and making them easy pickings for the defense.
Senior Ken DeBauche is the latter and his defense has been loving him for his accuracy.
A preseason third-team All American and fourth-year starter, DeBauche has established a 42.8-yard average on his punts, second-best mark in school history behind Kevin Stemke, and has dropped 54 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Simply put, consistenty is DeBauche's middle name.
Punting for over 7,400 yards in his three-year career, DeBauche seldom takes himself seriously, always joking with his teammates, friends and reporters - a personality that has earned him the unofficial title of team comedian. Benjamin Worgull sat down with DeBauche to talk about the upcoming season, the special teams and what it is like to punt inside Camp Randall.
Badger Nation: Ken, how have you been kicking so far in practice and throughout the summer?
Ken DeBauche: I've been punting well. I like how I am punting right now and I am excited to get the season started.
BN: Have you made any big changes to your punting routine over the course of the summer?
KD: No big changes. I've made some small changes with my steps and my drop that will make a big difference.
BN: You expressed last year that you were disappointed with how your season went. Looking back, do you think last year was an ‘off year' for you?
KD: I wouldn't call it a bad year, but it did fall below my expectations. I still had a 40-plus average and a couple (eight) over 50 yards. It was by no means a bad year, but I could have done better [in some areas].
BN: As a special teams unit, how do you guys feel going into this year?
KD: I think the special teams is going to make a big difference on this team. I am excited to see the new guys get out there and show what they can do.
BN: Special teams has some different challenged, primarily with Taylor having to move back five yards. Do you think Taylor has an overt advantage that he'll be able to handle it better than some other kickers will?
KD: I think Taylor has a big advantage because his touchbacks, when he was kicking from the 35, were going through the back of the end zone. Some teams with other kickers, their touchbacks went maybe a couple yards deep in the end zone. It will be evident now that Taylor has a much stronger leg. Even on paper, just by him having more touchbacks, those other guys won't be getting those anymore.
BN: You've punted in every stadium in the Big Ten. What would you stay is the hardest and easiest stadium to kick in?
KD: Well, the thing that makes a difference for kickers and punters is the wind. I love home games, but one thing with Camp Randall is the wind is very inconsistent. So, it's sometimes hard to punt here. I'd say wind wise; Camp Randall is the most inconsistent stadium, which makes it difficult. It's also our home stadium, so it's also the easiest if that makes sense.
BN: If you were a Wisconsin fan coming to see your team play on Saturday, what aspect of this team would you be the most excited to watch?
KD: That's a tough one. Really, there are a lot of things about this team. I don't think I could pick out one thing. Just to see how the team comes together once Washington State comes here.
BN: The Green Bay Packers might need a punter next year. As a Green Bay area native, are you going to declare yourself eligible for the NFL Draft early or are you going to wait till after the season?
KD (laughing) No comment.