Monday, September 15, 2008


I was watching the Texas Tech-SMU game Saturday night, and SMU has a punter named Thomas Morstead.

Thomas Morstead, apparently, has a cannon strapped to his leg. The first time he punted the ball, I thought it was going to enter low earth orbit.

I looked up his stats after the game, and he's averaging 48.2 yards a punt this season. Plus, he's not kicking line drives--his punts are a mile high.

Morstead might be the greatest college punter I've ever seen, but he wound up playing for SMU, which isn't even in the top 100 college programs right now.

How did that happen?

Here's the baffling part. There are many coaches in college football who won't give a scholarship to a kicker. Mack Brown, who coaches Texas, is a good example. But great punters are going to net the team an extra 5-10 yards in field position every single time they touch the ball. And coaches talk all the time about how important field position is, particularly in big games. So field position is critical, but they won't give a scholarship to a punter?

I can understand being cautious about field goal kickers. There's a pressure-related aspect of being a field goal kicker that's difficult to predict. They can lose their form just like golfers develop the yips in their putting stroke.

Punters, though, are usually bank. Punting is less mental than it is technical, and I'm not sure if I've ever heard of a punter not being able to kick anymore. Find a great punter in high school, and his chances of being great in college are higher than almost any other position. Do teams really need that seventh cornerback on scholarship more?

SMU offering Morstead a scholarship might not be the reason he wound up there. But if I was the head coach of one of these giant programs, I'd have a scout whose only job was to beat the bushes and find great punters and kickers.

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