As turbulent as the last few seasons have been for UConn football, the kicking game has been a source of stability for the Huskies. Both kicker Bobby Puyol and punter Justin Wain held down their respective positions for three seasons and were some of the best at what they did. Now, both positions are being turned over to players without any college experience.
While head coach Randy Edsall is concerned with special teams in general, punting is what he’s most worried about, especially considering how bad the offense was last season.
“Probably the biggest concern going into preseason is who our punter is going to be,” Edsall said. “That concerns me because that’s a big part of the game.”
On UConn’s roster, Brett Graham is the only punter listed. A redshirt freshman, Graham came to Storrs as a preferred walk-on in the class of 2016. He was the sole punter during the Huskies’ spring game, however it’s possible one of the place kickers could take some reps punting as well.
Meanwhile at kicker, redshirt senior Will Rishell and redshirt sophomore Michael Tarbutt are the two that will compete for the job this summer. Rishell, a walk-on from Hebron, Connecticut, held down kicking duties during the spring game with Tarbutt out due to a quad injury;.
Even though he got some live action, that won’t give Rishell an edge with the coaching staff. Whoever is named the kicker when the season comes around will have to earn it in camp.
“I don’t know who it’ll be right now to tell you the truth,” Edsall said. “I saw enough of Will and Tarbutt to know they have the ability. Now, between the ears can they handle that?”
While the position is far from settled, Edsall isn’t too concerned.
“I think we’ll be okay. I think we got guys there that will be able to compete,” he said. “I think we’re going to have some really good competition and I think the more good competition we can have, the better we’re going to be.”
Having players that can perform in tight situations is may not seem big, but often it’s the difference between winning and losing (Think Dave Teggart’s kick vs USF in 2010). If UConn can find consistency at the kicking positions, that could be the difference between making a bowl game or not.