Thursday, May 10, 2012

Flashback: Hunter the Punter

Brigham Young Coguars punter Riley Stephenson had one of the more memorable performances by a BYU punter during the Armed Forces Bowl last December. In 1992, Cougar fans were treated to a memorable performance the majority of the time the punt team took the field.

Twenty years ago, Joe Herrick started the season as the team’s punter. In three of the first four games, he struggled to punt the ball 40 yards. When the situation got worse in game five against Utah State (30 yard average on four punts), LaVell Edwards did what any reasonable coach would do; he replaced his punter with a defensive tackle.

Brad Hunter stood 6’5” tall, weighed 260 pounds, and made 29 tackles the year before. He was also an all-district punter in high school. His first punt of the 1992 season sailed 59 yards. The job was his.

Herrick was still used strategically to pin opponents inside the 20-yard line when BYU was too far for a field goal, but too close for a full force punt. Everywhere else, Hunter got the call.

High booming kicks that completely changed field position was Hunter’s specialty. In addition to the 59-yard blast against Utah State, Hunter had at least one punt of 50 yards or more in every game but one. Against Notre Dame, Penn State, and Air Force, Hunter had punts travel over 60 yards, which helped him average over 50 yards per punt in each of those games.

Punting had become must see TV. It was no longer disappointing when BYU couldn’t convert a third down and had to punt. Every time Hunter took the field he brought a buzz of excitement with him.

Hunter, however, wasn’t a one-trick pony. He could run an effective fake punt. During the Notre Dame game, he rumbled 13 yards on a fake. Hunter was also a valuable member of the punt coverage team.

Traditionally, the punter is the wimpiest player on the field. Hunter transformed the punter position into one of the most intimidating. New Mexico punt returner Marcus Goodloe had returned a Hunter punt 40 yards. Just one man stood between him and a touchdown: the punter. Realizing what his fate would be if he challenged Hunter one-on-one, Goodloe promptly dropped to the turf untouched. Hunter's presence saved a touchdown, and preserved a shutout. BYU beat New Mexico 35-0 that day.

Hunter finished the season with a 47.58 yard average on 29 punts. His average was the second best in the nation, and was good enough to earn honorable mention All-WAC honors.

Brad Hunter’s 1992 Game Stats
Utah State: 1 punt, 59 yards
Fresno State: 1 punt, 33 yards
Wyoming: 5 punts, 42.6 yard ave. (long: 59 yards)
Notre Dame: 3 punts, 51.0 yard ave. (long: 65 yards)
Penn State: 3 punts, 54.3 yard ave. (long: 65 yards)
New Mexico: 2 punts, 46 yard ave. (longest: 50 yards)
Air Force: 6 punts, 51.5 yard ave. (longest: 62 yards)
Utah: 8 punts, 45.0 yard ave. (longest: 55 yards)
Kansas: 3 punts, 48.0 yard ave. (longest: 56 yards)

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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