Video by Justin Janssen | Sports reporter
ASU’s punting problems last year were well-documented.
The Sun Devils used four different punters and finished in the bottom five in the country in both gross punting average (37.4) and net (33.2), according to ESPN. The team used redshirt senior Alex Garoutte, sophomore Matt Haack, walk-on Dom Vizzare, and even redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly in pooch situations.
It wasn’t the poor averages that hurt ASU last season. Primarily, a few game-changing plays made critical games closer than they needed to be.
Vizzare misplayed a bad snap against Wisconsin, and the Badgers scored on the play. Garoutte couldn’t cleanly field a poor snap against UCLA, giving the Bruins possession in the red zone. Haack had a punt blocked against Stanford, but was able to avoid giving up seven points by getting the safety.
“Obviously it was frustrating,” Haack said. “You don’t want to see your team muff a snap or something like that, but in the end, they’re all learning experiences and we grow from all of them.”
Haack ended up taking 16 of the team’s 65 punts and averaged 38.2 yards with just one touchback. This season will be a little different for Haack, who knows his role as a starter heading into the season.
“Going in knowing I’m going to be the starting punter, I’ve worked for it,” Haack said. “They (coaches) expect a lot out of me and I expect a lot out of myself.”
When it comes to ASU’s system of using quarterbacks on pooch punts, Haack said Kelly has done a great job for the past few years.
“I haven’t ever tried an Aussie punt or a pooch,” he said. “It might be interesting to see, fun to do, but whatever helps the team win.”
Additional Practice Notes
-Head coach Todd Graham said the Will linebacker spot is “neck and neck” between redshirt sophomore Carlos Mendoza and freshman DJ Calhoun. He also said Mendoza “had the best practice he’s had since he’s been here” with his parents in attendance.During ASU’s media day Saturday, Graham had stated that Will linebacker position was his biggest concern on the defense.
-Freshman running back Kalen Ballage attended practice, but was not participating in the session observed by the media. “He’ll be fine, we just have to rest (him),” Graham said.
-During a drill, freshman defensive back DeAndre Scott lined up at kicker when the team was practicing remaining onside during kicks. Scott didn’t actually kick the ball during the portion observed by the media, but he could be an emergency kicker/punter for the team. According to Scott’s MaxPreps page, he averaged 33.2 yards on 31 punts in high school, had eight touchbacks on 105 kickoffs and was 7-for-8 on extra points.
-The team heads up to Camp Tontozona outside of Payson on Tuesday for more practice.