Wisconsin Badgers beat writer Jesse Temple will be analyzing the 25 most important players to the Badgers’ success in the 2014 season. Check back each weekday to see the latest player on the list. You can find every report here.
Note: This is not a list of the team’s 25 best players or a series about past success, but rather which of them means the most to how Wisconsin will fare this year. Criteria such as depth at that player’s position, general expectations and overall importance of that player having a good season are all highly considered. The list does not include incoming freshmen because their potential impact is unknown at this time.
No. 14 — Drew Meyer, punter
Why he’s No. 14
Yes, a punter ranks No. 14 on the list of 25 most important Badgers in 2014. This is a position that generally goes overlooked by fans, but it’s amazing the number of times field position battles come down to a few punts a game.
Meyer handled all 53 punts for the Badgers last season and is expected to take care of every punt for UW in 2014 as well, barring some type of injury. His overall numbers weren’t spectacular last season — 38.6 yards per punt, which ranked ninth among Big Ten teams — but that does not diminish his value to the team. There are, after all, reasons why his numbers took a dip in 2013 compared to 2012, when he averaged 41.5 yards per punt attempt.
Wisconsin’s offense improved considerably over those two seasons, which required Meyer to punt far less — and often with less room to operate. Instead of punting 80 times with 36 punts landing inside the 20, Meyer punted 53 times with 17 punts landing inside the 20. Either way, Meyer is the team’s entire punting game and will be a vital piece to the puzzle again.
Expectations for 2014
Meyer’s effectiveness will be determined, in part, by how much his team needs him on the field. His punting numbers decreased last season because Wisconsin’s offense improved — from 29.6 points per game to 34.8 points per game — and the Badgers simply kept more drives alive with a solid running game.
Meyer is extremely reliable and has had only one of his 133 punt attempts blocked in two seasons. Expectations for him should be to handle every punt and average somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 yards per attempt. He will be a redshirt junior who has dealt with any situation necessary to excel on the field.
What would they do without him?
Wisconsin would be in some trouble without Meyer because there is only one other punter on the entire roster. That would be redshirt sophomore Brett Nethery, who has never attempted a punt in a college game. Nethery, from Greendale, Wis., did average 46 yards per punt as a senior in high school. He also was ranked as the No. 54 punter by Kohl’s Kicking Camp. Still, Meyer’s experience (133 career punts) is vast, and with him on the field, fans can breathe easy.