The Third Phase: You Must Be THIS Tall to Punt

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It’s that time again for another jam-packed edition of the Third Phase, which as you know is America’s 400th Finest Column about punting. You know it and love it, let’s get to it!

Just Get to the Footage Already

I couldn’t ever imagine playing punt coverage on punt plays. It’s pure chaos that flows through from punt to catch. How much thinking is done for those in the coverage, I can’t say.

That said, what the hell happened on this play? I’ve watched it a dozen times and all I can think is:

A) That’s very ballsy and dangerous of the punt return team to do

B) Wow, Arkansas!

Yes, the Razorbacks let that play happen. They let this happen to them. It probably didn’t cost them the game — they lost by four touchdowns, afetr all — but maybe it slows the deluge at an early juncture in the game. 

It was a good enough punt that led to the kicking team stopping before the play ended. You have to think fast. There’s a lot of information to process in a short time.

That said, it was a brilliant play by North Texas. Hats off to them for making it happen and allowing it to be one of the top plays of the weekend, if not the season.

I don’t imagine that happening again. Although, you can never be too sure about that. Of course, if the NCAA DOES ban the play, then it will never happen again.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think this is going to lead to every FBS team trying that same play. This isn’t a troubling trend. And I’m pretty sure most teams might pay closer attention to this during practice. I don’t think anyone wants to end up embarrassed like Arkansas.

A Little Taller

Thursday’s game between Wake Forest and Boston College featured an interesting punt-related moment.

This less than stellar moment occurred during the game. And yes, because of the high snap, it led to Boston College punter Grant Carlson having his punt blocked and immediately returned for a touchdown by Wake Forest.

High snaps will, unfortunately, happen in the punt game. A long snapper has to snap that ball at least 15 yards. Chances are, some of those might go high and unless you’re as tall as say…Brock Osweiler…then you might have a little trouble with that snap from time to time.

Not every punter can be as tall as former Alabama and current Green Bay rookie JK Scott, who is 6’6″. And it’s an impossible task to expect your punter to turn into Stretch Armstrong.

I don’t care how many Medieval methods you try, it’s not going to help your punter in the instance of a high snap. Plus you have to worry about the strength of their legs after they get all stretched out. That’ can’t be good for the bones and tendons.

The only remedy to solve this problem is practice…Practice, practice, PRACTICE! It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

It’s too bad the block happened to Carlson because he had a good day of punting. Of his eight punts on Thursday, four landed inside the 20. You take those when you can get them.

On the Flip Side

Grant Carlson was obviously not the only punter in this game. Dom Maggio of Wake Forest had a terrific punting effort. He had seven punts that averaged 44.3 yards. Of those seven, four landed inside the 20. Maggio also had three punts that went 50 or more yards, including this amazing 54-yarder that bounced out of bounds at the one.

Punting is a beautiful thing.

Punter Spotlight: Tyler Newsome

In the final seconds of Saturday’s game at home versus Vanderbilt, Notre Dame faced a fourth down situation that required the team to punt. That meant punter Tyler Newsome was going out there and trying to make it as difficult for the Commodores as possible to do anything offensively.

There might have been 12 seconds left in the game, but Notre Dame’s lead, at one point 16-0, was down to five points (22-17). Heaven knows the Fighting Irish didn’t want a Hail Mary happening against them in their home stadium. So they turned to a trusted punter and he didn’t disappoint.

Newsome booted the ball 63 yards, forcing Vanderbilt punt returner Trey Ellis to fair catch it at their 10-yard-line with just five seconds left.

Notre Dame would hold off the play attempt and get the win. And while credit should go all around for everyone for making sure they didn’t lose at home, you might want to include Newsome in those initial mentions.

Newsome had an outstanding game against Vanderbilt. All five of his punts, including the 63-yarder at the end of the game, went 50 or more yards. He had two punts land inside the 20 and another two go into the end zone for touchbacks.

Newsome, who graduated in May with a management consulting decree and a minor in sustainability, already has seven punts that have gone 50 or more yards this season and four that have landed inside the 20 in three games this season.

It all could’ve worked differently for Newsome, however. In May of 2012, Newsome was seriously injured in an auto accident.

He ended up breaking his pelvis, ribs and fracturing a tailbone. If that’s not enough, he also got a concussion and ruptured a spleen.

Because of the injuries, Newsome spent more than two weeks in the hospital. He would recover and continue to play football.

But before Newsome made the recovery, he promised he’d give back if given the opportunity to lead. Newsome has worked with numerous organizations, including Make-A-Wish, South Bend Center for the Homeless, and much more.

Newsome might not be a household name to the national audience. However, he’s still a popular person. And he’s popular enough among his teammates that they voted him as one of the captains earlier in the spring.

As for Saturday’s game, Newsome did get a game ball for his efforts. It helps when you can average nearly 60-yards per punt. Specifically, his 59.5 average broke the previous school record (five punt minimum), which Newsome set in 2015 (52.4) against UMass.

A Lot of Punting

As always, there was a lot of punting during last weekend’s action. Why wouldn’t there be, after all? One player stood above the rest, though and we choose to honor him this week.

That punter is Mitchell Crawford of UTEP. He had 12 punts in Saturday’s loss at Tennessee, averaging 39.25 yards. Of those 12, three of them landed inside the 20-yard line. However, Crawford didn’t have a punt travel farther than 49 yards.

Matthew Trickett (11) of Kent State and Logan Tyler (10) of Florida State were the only other players in FBS with double-digit punts on Saturday.

Awards

The Third Phase Punter of the Week is a no-brainer, even with all the strong contestants. The honor goes to Notre Dame’s Tyler Newsome. I won’t dive too deeply into his stats because you can read those above in the spotlight.

After Saturday’s win against Vanderbilt, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Newsome get added to the Ray Guy Award Watch List.  And if he keeps putting on performances like that, he’ll get even further consideration.

Meanwhile, the Ray Guy Award committee announced UCLA punter Stefan Flintoft as its punter of the week.

Flintoft had six punts against Fresno State, including two inside the 20 and two that went 50 yards or more.

Congratulations to all the punters! Keep punting! You never know when you’ll make a difference.