Nov. 1, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Tyler Williams is a punter – and a darn good one – but he’s also part meteorologist.
Talk to Williams, Marshall’s true freshman specialist, at this time of year and the discussion turns to talking on air, and not the kind that inflates a football, but the kind that can deflate a punter’s average.
Williams punted a season-high seven times in the Thundering Herd’s loss to UCF last Saturday, and the chilly, drizzling conditions were different than he’d booted in all season.
“I don’t think it makes a whole, whole lot of difference,” Williams said earlier this week when asked whether he prepares differently depending on the weather. “Once it does get cold, you can get into kicking talk, punting talk.
“You’re tight, the ball’s colder, your follow through drops a little bit, because you’re always tight.
“The ball doesn’t go as high because it’s colder and the air is more dense, things like that, but overall my approach is the same. I don’t try to do something different. I get warmed up the same if it’s 20 degrees outside or 70.”
Williams was named Monday to the watch list for the Ray Guy Award, presented annually to the nation’s top punter. He’s there deservedly so. His 46.0-yard average ranks ninth nationally (FBS), and the Herd is sixth in net punting (42.1 average), with only 11 punts returned for 50 total yards.
Williams has booted 29 times, with nine of his kicks going 50 or more yards, including a long of 66 at Rice (and 61- and 64-yarders against UCF). The Oregon native and Fort Wayne, Ind., resident has 12 kicks inside the 20 to only three touchbacks.
Digging deeper into those numbers, he’s had only eight punts of fewer than 40 yards, and five of those have been inside-the-20 efforts. He’s had only one punt this season that could be considered bad, a second-quarter boot at Purdue that flew out of bounds after 35 yards, giving the Boilermakers possession at their own 36 with a 42-14 lead.
“Seven punts in a game isn’t a problem, but you really don’t want that many, because when I don’t have to punt much, it’s obviously a good thing (for the Herd offense),” said Williams, who is the nation’s no. 2 true freshman punter in average behind Ethan Perry of TCU (47.2 average). “When I go into a game and have to punt, I’m ready to go.
“Punting seven times doesn’t kill you. Now, if it’s 12, then it’s a whole different thing. That’s a lot, and you can have leg fatigue. Otherwise, whether it’s one punt, two, seven, it doesn’t matter most of the time. Game operations are the same. Seven is not a great number for us, but obviously, I do like to punt.”
If Williams can sustain his 46-yard average, he’ll take the Marshall season record from Travis Colquitt, who averaged 45.1 yards as a senior in 1994. Colquitt only punted 37 times that season. Williams is on a 43- to 47-punt pace, depending on whether the Herd (3-5, 2-2 Conference USA) reaches a bowl.
The Herd has had only five seasons in history in which its punter has averaged 43 or more yards per kick.
Williams also is back in the national statistics this week. A punter needs to average 3.6 punts per team game to make the NCAA rankings. He is barely there at 3.625 and back in the rankings after only seven punts, combined, against Purdue, Tulsa and Southern Miss.
After the frightful early week weather, skies are forecast to be sunny with temperatures in the low 50s Saturday when Memphis (1-7, 1-3) comes to Edwards Stadium for a 2 p.m. kickoff. Williams appreciates that forecast, but said he’s accustomed to cold.
“In Oregon, it’s more a rainy cold,” Williams said of his high schoolboy kicking days before heading to Atlanta Sports Academy for a prep school year in 2011-12. “In Indiana my senior year, it was 25 degrees and snowing…twice.
“Cold is cold. You don’t want to play in cold; you don’t want to kick in cold, but that’s the way it goes. It’s football. It was cold Saturday, but the nice thing was it wasn’t windy with the drizzle and cold. Wind goes right through your bones. No wind was nice because you stay warm longer. It could have been a lot worse.”
Williams meant the weather, not the 54-17 score. His two 60-yard-plus punts went for touchbacks, but it was one of his shorter punts of the season that he liked best – his third 40-yarder of the game, downed at the UCF 1.
“I’d say I’d rather have a punt like my last one, a nice, high pooch punt that’s downed on the 1-yard line rather than a 70-yarder for a touchback,” Williams said when asked for the best or favorite punt of his 29 this season. “That’s kicking, I guess, and those 65-yarders are nice punts, good for stats, but I’m not happy about touchbacks.
“That’s not what I’m trying to do. You want more hang time to allow us to get down there and down the ball. I’d rather have a 38- to 40-yarder with good hang time downed inside the 5 than a 70-yarder into the end zone for a touchback. The pooch is what I’d like to have more.
“Those are the position-changers. Those are the game-changers. That’s why that last punt was probably my favorite so far this year. It was good field position for us. That what a punter is supposed to do.”