Fatigue sets in

Mike Tomlin is all about testing his athletes under duress. That's what camp has been about for rookie punter Dan Sepulveda -- duress.

LATROBE – Daniel Sepulveda knows first-hand about the tedious special-teams emphasis this camp. On the first day, he punted the ball 72 times. And he's a bit worn down.

"It's just fatigue," the rookie punter said of his left leg. "It's not that it's really sore or really painful to kick, it's just not live. It doesn't have that jump and that hop, but that's part of training camp, and the coaches know that. We'll back off when it's time to perform and results are really expected."

So, if you're going to camp, and you're wondering why the punter the Steelers drafted in the fourth round is not booming the ball, you'll know why.

But the fatigued leg might also explain why he's able to deftly drop so many kicks inside the 20.

Monday morning, Sepulveda worked on his pooch punt, dubbed the "Aussie roll," and it ended up inside the 20-yard line every time.

"It'd be nice to hang it up there a little bit more," he said. "But we were able to get all of those inside the 20."

In the "Aussie roll," Sepulveda drops the ball point-first and the punted ball takes a backward spin. The plan is for the ball to hit inside the 20 and bounce backward, as opposed to rolling into the end zone. It was something he began doing last season at Baylor, and he dropped 16 punts inside the 20 with only one touchback.

Yesterday, with the center snapping from the 40, Sepulveda's punts were fair-caught at the 11, 9 and 8-yard lines.

Snapping from the 45, Sepulveda's "Aussie roll" was fair-caught at the 12. And snapping from the 50, the same style of punt was downed at the 17 and his final punt was allowed to fall at the 5. It bounced up to the gunner, who downed it at the 6.

Dan Sheldon, the team's newest return man, was asked about fielding the kick.

"Last year the Colts' kicker, Hunter Smith, kicked like that," he said. "That was the first time I've ever seen it. It's like catching a kickoff, only different because a kickoff comes in more of an angle. This one sometimes goes up and straight down and into you and it moves some. It's tough. You've really got to keep your eye on it."

Aren't punts from left-footed kickers difficult to catch anyway?

"Only because you're so used to seeing so many righties," Sheldon said. "You catch thousands and thousands of punts from righties and then you see a lefty and it's hard because it spins differently and it drops the other way and it's curving the other way. Lefties are a bit more difficult."

Sepulveda, of course, was the first two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award in college football. His career punting average of 45.24 is the best in Division I history for players with at least 250 punts.

Sepulveda has also replaced Chris Gardocki as the holder, which means he's been the focal point of the fake-punt plays that are being run on a daily basis.

"Whenever they want to run a fake, I'm ready," Sepulveda said. "I never did throw one in college. We ran one and it should've worked but I went the wrong way and was running too fast. I was just running out of control and the guy barely clipped my foot. I shouldn't have gone down, but I did."

And the placement holding?

"That's going really well," he said. "I'm glad I started doing it right when I got to college. I've done it in games since the end of my sophomore year and never had a problem."

A problem on the horizon could be the NFL's K-balls, which are so marked by the pre-game officiating crew as proof that the game balls haven't been worked over.

For example, the legend goes that at Texas schools, such as Baylor, balls are microwaved before the game and thrown in before the home team lines up to punt.

"I don't know about that," Sepulveda said with a laugh. "I will say that when you get that nice, worn-down ball you can really crush it. But if you put that same kick on a K-ball, it's not going to go as far."

So Sepulveda rests his leg in anticipation of the rebuilding process that will take place prior to the season. Right now, he's glad the staff uses so many different drills without the need for a punter.

"I think it's great that we're putting so much emphasis on that part of the game," Sepulveda said. "It is important and I think it's going to show in the fall."


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\nLATROBE – Daniel Sepulveda knows first-hand about the tedious special-teams emphasis this camp. On the first day, he punted the ball 72 times. And he's a bit worn down.\r\n

\"It's just fatigue,\" the rookie punter said of his left leg. \"It's not that it's really sore or really painful to kick, it's just not live. It doesn't have that jump and that hop, but that's part of training camp, and the coaches know that. We'll back off when it's time to perform and results are really expected.\"\r\n

So, if you're going to camp, and you're wondering why the punter the Steelers drafted in the fourth round is not booming the ball, you'll know why. \r\n

But the fatigued leg might also explain why he's able to deftly drop so many kicks inside the 20.\r\n

Monday morning, Sepulveda worked on his pooch punt, dubbed the \"Aussie roll,\" and it ended up inside the 20-yard line every time.\r\n

\"It'd be nice to hang it up there a little bit more,\" he said. \"But we were able to get all of those inside the 20.\"\r\n

In the \"Aussie roll,\" Sepulveda drops the ball point-first and the punted ball takes a backward spin. The plan is for the ball to hit inside the 20 and bounce backward, as opposed to rolling into the end zone. It was something he began doing last season at Baylor, and he dropped 16 punts inside the 20 with only one touchback.\r\n

Yesterday, with the center snapping from the 40, Sepulveda's punts were fair-caught at the 11, 9 and 8-yard lines.\r\n

Snapping from the 45, Sepulveda's \"Aussie roll\" was fair-caught at the 12.\r\nAnd snapping from the 50, the same style of punt was downed at the 17 and his final punt was allowed to fall at the 5. It bounced up to the gunner, who downed it at the 6.\r\n

Dan Sheldon, the team's newest return man, was asked about fielding the kick.\r\n

\"Last year the Colts' kicker, Hunter Smith, kicked like that,\" he said. \"That was the first time I've ever seen it. It's like catching a kickoff, only different because a kickoff comes in more of an angle. This one sometimes goes up and straight down and into you and it moves some. It's tough. You've really got to keep your eye on it.\"\r\n

Aren't punts from left-footed kickers difficult to catch anyway? \r\n

\"Only because you're so used to seeing so many righties,\" Sheldon said. \"You catch thousands and thousands of punts from righties and then you see a lefty and it's hard because it spins differently and it drops the other way and it's curving the other way. Lefties are a bit more difficult.\"\r\n

Sepulveda, of course, was the first two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award in college football. His career punting average of 45.24 is the best in Division I history for players with at least 250 punts.\r\n

Sepulveda has also replaced Chris Gardocki as the holder, which means he's been the focal point of the fake-punt plays that are being run on a daily basis.\r\n

\"Whenever they want to run a fake, I'm ready,\" Sepulveda said. \"I never did throw one in college. We ran one and it should've worked but I went the wrong way and was running too fast. I was just running out of control and the guy barely clipped my foot. I shouldn't have gone down, but I did.\"\r\n

And the placement holding?\r\n

\"That's going really well,\" he said. \"I'm glad I started doing it right when I got to college. I've done it in games since the end of my sophomore year and never had a problem.\"\r\n

A problem on the horizon could be the NFL's K-balls, which are so marked by the pre-game officiating crew as proof that the game balls haven't been worked over.\r\n

For example, the legend goes that at Texas schools, such as Baylor, balls are microwaved before the game and thrown in before the home team lines up to punt.\r\n

\"I don't know about that,\" Sepulveda said with a laugh. \"I will say that when you get that nice, worn-down ball you can really crush it. But if you put that same kick on a K-ball, it's not going to go as far.\"\r\n

So Sepulveda rests his leg in anticipation of the rebuilding process that will take place prior to the season. Right now, he's glad the staff uses so many different drills without the need for a punter.\r\n

\"I think it's great that we're putting so much emphasis on that part of the game,\" Sepulveda said. \"It is important and I think it's going to show in the fall.\"\r\n

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