Meyer first in line to replace Nortman
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer learned plenty about his craft while watching from the sideline on game days last fall. He hopes to learn even more by playing next fall.
Meyer took a redshirt season as a freshman last year as senior punter Brad Nortman closed out one of the best punting careers in Badgers history. Nortman finished his career ranked third in school history in average yards per punt at 42.1 and taught Meyer how to approach the craft with great reverence.
"He showed me how to work in the weight room and out on the field," Meyer said. "He really was able to focus when he needed to focus. We have fun as specialists, but when it was time to work, we knew how to work. It was great seeing how he did things."
Few punters could have given Meyer a better crash course in kicking at the college level. Nortman was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the NFL draft on Saturday.
Now, it's Meyer's turn to step in as the only returning Badgers specialist that punts.
"My leg strength is pretty decent," said Meyer, a Hartland, Wis., native. "I'm still working on things technique-wise. I changed things up so the power is still coming along with the new technique. I'm working on being more consistent."
Among the biggest adjustments for Meyer has been learning the intricacies of the pooch punt. Because Wisconsin's offense was so prolific last season, Nortman often found himself beyond mid-field, with less room to work with on his kicks.
"I had never done the type of pooch punt that we do here until I got here," Meyer said. "I learned from Brad. He showed me during the summers and all throughout the fall.
"In high school we had directional, toward the corner. I tried to pin them deep, get it out of bounds. Now it's really just to hang it up there and let the coverage team get down. It's just kind of how you hold the ball technique-wise."
Meyer appears to have plenty of room to grow in several areas before the season begins in September. He punted eight times during Wisconsin's spring game on Saturday for an average of 35.9 yards per punt. The cold, windy conditions were far from ideal, and Meyer's first two punts traveled 25 and 35 yards, respectively. But he steadily improved, booming a 44-yard punt for his long boot of the day.
"We weren't clean on punt protection," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said following Saturday's spring game. "I thought Drew had a couple really nice hits today."
Bielema has a history of bringing in talented, non-scholarship players who eventually earn significant playing time and a scholarship. Meyer, a walk-on, seemingly falls right in line with that plan.
The 6-foot-2, 182-pound Meyer won the state's top kicker and punter award as a high school senior and averaged 40.4 yards per punt. He also drilled 74 of 76 extra-point attempts during his career and made a career-best 50-yard field goal.
He isn't likely to see any action on extra point and field goal tries any time soon. Redshirt sophomore Kyle French has stepped into that role nicely. French made 3 of 5 field goals last season while filling in temporarily for Phillip Welch. And during the spring game, Welch impressed during one field-goal session in which he made 5 of 6 attempts, including a 52-yarder.
French's success means Meyer can focus even more intently on the art of punting specifically. Meyer possesses the mindset to make a seamless transition as another solid four-year punter for Wisconsin, following the mold outlined for him by Nortman.
"You know what you're getting into when you become a kicker or a punter, but you also live for those moments," Meyer said. "You only have a few moments to contribute so you want to make sure you take those opportunities for what they are and do the best that you can and perform in those few opportunities."
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