Much has been made about the incoming freshman and who will contribute. While there is speculation that freshmen may fill in certain depth gaps/play special teams, there is only one freshman guarantee on this team: Will Hagerup will be your starting punter on September 4, 2010 (I mean, if we need to punt....). This was made completely crystal clear during the spring game, when the various walk-on punters varied between punting the football 20 yards to the right sideline and 20 yards to the left sideline. Our only feasible punter during the spring game was Tate Forcier, and while the fake punt opportunities would be delicious, it's not gonna happen, nor should it.
So with Hagerup fresh out of high school, I wanted to do some investigating to see how prolific true freshman punters were in the NCAA, and how they generally fared. Below, you will find the breakdown from 2006 through 2009, the active years of Zoltan. In fact, at the bottom of each year is Zoltan's stats from that particular year for comparison. His numbers have NO BEARING on the averages for each year. It's just so you can get an idea of what a good punter's stats look like.
Caveat: I only used punting average. There are many metrics to look at for punters, but average is probably the most basic without driving me completely insane digging around. So take this with a grain of salt, in that the numbers don't reflect the special teams tacklers surrounding these fine young men. RR indicates Rivals Rankings...I used this because I subscribe to Rivals and not Scout.
|Kyle Loomis||42||Oregon State||41.26||2||5.4|
|Alonso Rojas||99||Bowling Green||35.64||2||5|
|Aaron Bates||75||Michigan State||39.74||2||5|
|Kyle Hughes||22||New Mexico State||42.67||NR||NR|
|Matt Rinehart||64||Kent State||39.98||2||5.1|
|Ryan Quigley||71||Boston College||39.56||2||5.3|
|Brian Stahovich||73||San Diego St.||39.54||2||5.4|
|Tyler Campbell||12||Ole Miss||43.95||2||5.5|
|Ryan Erxleben||56||Texas Tech||40.84||NR||NR|
|Will Atterberry||82||N. Texas||38.96||2||5.2|
|Peter Boehme||88||So. Miss||38.48||NR||NR|
What to make of all of this:
Well, generally it seems that freshman punters are getting better. From 2006 to 2009, true freshman punters were kicking the ball almost an extra 3 yards per kick, which isn't bad (think an extra 18-20 yards of field position per game. That's more than enough to take a team out of FG range). The increase in ranking averages seems to back this up. I would imagine this has to do with several factors (some of them being completely chaos related). High school programs are getting more sophisticated with special teams, punters may actually punt their whole high school career, advances in strength training and conditioning, and the shift to rugby punting in many programs all probably play into these numbers.
There also seems to be a general reluctance (duh) towards using true freshman punters:
- In 2006 there were 100 total punters with at least 3.6 punts per game, and only 8 were true freshman (8% of punters in FBS).
- In 2007 that number was 8 again (8% of punters in FBS).
- In 2008 there were 98 punters, and 11 were true freshman (11% of punters in FBS...a bumper crop!).
- In 2009 there were 98 punters, and 6 were true freshman (6% of punters in FBS).
The total averages for all of the years:
- Average Rank: 73.42
- Average Punting Average: 39.30 yards (editors note: yecch)
- Average Rivals Rating (for those who were actually rated): 5.21
Zoltan is awesome. More awesome than the numbers truly reflect. But he was super awesome last year. I mean...seriously.
What About Will?
Here is what Rivals has to say about young master Hagerup:
- 3 stars
- 5.5 rating
- #3 kicker in the nation (their #1 true punter)
- 215 lbs
The only two players who come close to this level of guru love are Wisconsin's Brad Nortman (who fared quite well in 2008) and, well, Zoltan. This isn't enough brick and mortar to build a castle, but it isn't bad.
Hagerup also averaged 44.5 yards per punt during his senior year, which would place him smack dab at the top of each of the lists above, and above Zoltan in certain years. Now this certainly does not factor in the added level of competition in the form of better blockers/returners, but again, it's a good place to be.
This number also completely blows the averages for true freshman punters out of the water, but if Hagerup doesn't come in and start tearing through those averages that were being dragged down by the likes of the walk on punters from North Texas, Buffalo, and Wyoming...we're in some trouble.
Hagerup is going to be a fine punter during his freshman year. Unless he forgets which foot he uses to punt or what a football looks like, he will be fine. Reports have already been leaking out of Newsterbaan about him booming punts during off-season workouts that looked very Zoltanish.
His physicality is more than promising, his guru hype matches that of the best true freshman punter of the past 4 seasons, and his high school averages put him at the top of any of the past 4 classes.
So while we may lose something by not having Zoltan, a complete landslide this will not be. His supporting cast will generally be the same, and they proved themselves quite efficient at long snapping, blocking, and punt coverage duties last year. Nerves or other intangibles may cause him to butterfinger a snap into oblivion, or shank a punt into the blades of a Big Fogg fan, but I don't think there's any reason to expect a poor, or even "average" season for our new true freshman punter. In fact, he'd have to drop 5.2 yards per kick average between his senior year in HS and his freshman year in college to approach average for a freshman punter. That's astronomical, and I don't see it happening. "Above average" to "All Glory to Zoltan Acolyte Hagerup!" should be your expectations this coming year.
Now we just need to figure out how to get the student section to make H's with their hands on 4th downs...