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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Crier improving all-around game

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Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona Football summer practice Aug. 21, 2009.

One of the most overlooked players on any football team is its punter, but his role is as crucial as any other position.

A punter’s ability to pin the opponent deep in its own territory can cause a huge momentum shift, and the Arizona Wildcats have a player capable of being one of the best in the country.

Junior Keenyn Crier had a stellar freshman campaign for the Wildcats in 2007 when he was named to the first-team All-Pac-10 squad. He landed 22 of his 59 punts inside the other team’s 20-yard line and belted an 83-yard bomb against USC. His 43.7-yard punt average and 38.1-yard net punting average — the difference between the distance the punt traveled and the length of the return — earned him Second Team All-America honors.

Those numbers are exactly what the Arizona coaching staff is looking for.

“”(NFL scouts) aren’t looking for a guy who can kick it 80 yards with a three-second hang time. That’s what we’ve got to be careful with,”” said special teams coordinator Jeff Hammerschmidt. “”He’s doing a great job of focusing on what we’ve got to get done. We directional kick and we kick with a lot of hang time.

“”We don’t need to get caught up in individual numbers of distance,”” he said, adding that a good punt average is meaningless if a punter out-kicks his coverage and allows for big returns.                 

Crier could have a future in the NFL if he improves. At the beginning of last season, he was hampered while he recovered from surgery to remove a cyst from his back. But the 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Spring, Texas, still managed to pull together a solid year. He ranked 13th in the nation with a 43.9-yard punt average and had 16 kicks downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, but his net punting averaged slipped to 36.8-yards per punt.

“”Last year I think I did pretty good. I mean, I was top 15 in the country and I just had my back surgery too, so I feel like that was pretty good,”” Crier said. “”It wasn’t to my expectations or the expectations of everybody else, but I thought it was pretty good.””

Even though he was named to the second-team All-Pac-10 squad, Crier and his coaches think he can put up better numbers than his freshman year. To improve his all-around game, Crier has been concentrating his efforts on the finer points of his position.

“”I’ve been working on my pooch punts, getting my bounce back,”” Crier said. “”I’ve just been working on being consistent really, just working on that.””

His coaches have been taking notice.

Hammerschmidt said he was pleased with Crier’s performance throughout summer and fall camp and has even experimented with him at place kicker as a result of the struggles of sophomore kicker Alex Zendejas.

But no matter what kicking duties Crier takes on throughout the season, one thing will be certain: He’ll be one of the premier punters in college football.

“”He’s just going to kick that thing in the air. He’s got a great leg, he’s a great young man and he’s got some strength,”” Hammerschmidt said. “”But we’re more worried about the net punting than leading the country in punting yards … We were second in the conference in net punting (last season), but Keenyn does a great job on kicking that thing with some hang time — which is what those NFL guys are all looking for.””

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