(Editor's note: This is an occasional series on players who I will be especially interested to see in action this season.)
We all realize that there's a lot of unproven talent on the USF team this year, and a lot of guys are going to have to step into bigger roles in order for the Bulls to be successful. But there's one position on the field where no one has any game experience, and frankly it scares the hell out of me. It's at punter, where Delbert Alvarado has moved on and Justin Brockhaus-Kann steps in at the top of the current depth chart.
USF has been pretty spoiled at punter over the years. From Tony Umholtz to Devin Sanderson, and Brandon Baker to Alvarado (don't laugh, he was brought in as a punter and he was a pretty good one), this is a position where we've had very little to worry about. And that's not to say that Brockhaus-Kann won't take his place in that line of dependable punters. In fact, I really, really hope he does, because nothing shoots the wheels off your team faster than a shaky punter. If you're lucky, you only give away field position. At worst, you give away easy points to the other team.
Remember the start of the 2006 season? That was the last time the Bulls went into a season with a huge question mark at punter. We all know Leavitt was not the best special teams coordinator in the world, and the first few games of that season proved it. USF went through three punters -- Alvarado, Ilya Petrov, and Justin Teachey -- and even Matt Grothe was called on to quick kick a couple of times. Through three games, the Bulls punted 12 times for a combined average of 29.8 yards per punt, and that's not even including returns. (The net average was an embarrassing 15.8 yards.)
There was also probably the biggest punting disaster in school history at the Citrus Bowl. The Bulls were leading 17-10 in the fourth quarter when a bad snap came back to Alvarado. Once he tracked down the ball, he tried to get off a punt instead of just going down and not making a bad situation worse. It was easily blocked and UCF returned it for a touchdown that tied the game at 17. Eventually the Bulls resorted to Teachey (who was the kickoff specialist) rugby-kicking the ball for most of the season, with middling results. There weren't any more punting blunders that year. But it still took a few more weeks until USF fans stopped freaking out every time the punt team checked into the game.
That's why I'm hoping Brockhaus-Kann can take the punting job and run with it this fall. He has the pedigree to do it - his dad was a college punter at Missouri, and a kicker in the pros - and it would really put everyone's minds at ease, including Skip Holtz's mind, if Justin could add his name to the list of punters that we haven't had to stress over.