Crier’s punting goals are clear for everybody to seeby Anthony Gimino on Aug. 27, 2010, under Sports
Arizona punter Keenyn Crier wears No. 47 by chance.
“I wore No. 7 in high school, but when I got here, Willie Tuitama was 7,” Crier said. “I guess they couldn’t give me that because he was big-time.”
“So they just gave me 47, and I was like, ‘That’s fine,’” he said. “It looks nice on a uniform.”
Even better on a stat sheet.
For Crier’s personal goals this season, look no further than the number on his uniform. Averaging 47 yards and putting up an average hang time of 4.7 seconds would suit the senior just fine. Well, more than fine.
His punting average last season was 41.5 yards, the lowest of his career. He was at 43.7 yards as a freshman and 43.9 yards as a sophomore.
“I would say my average hang time last year was 4.4 or 4.5,” he said.
“It’s doable,” he said of his “47″ goals. “I should be able to do it. Just gotta work and focus. If I focus, then I can do it. No problem.”
The sheer power of his right leg hasn’t been a question. He’s a boomer. Which is not at all what Crier and special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt have been working on in the preseason. The work has been about directional punting — pinning the returner to a sideline and just putting the ball to the side of the field when Arizona has directed its coverage, better able to prevent any long return.
“There were too many times last year when we didn’t kick to our coverage,” Hammerschmidt said, “and that made it a little scary.”
Directional kicking might not carry the emotional blast of really getting hold of one and booting a spiral 50, 60 yards down the field and seeing the returner backpedal and backpedal and backpedal … but Crier will have to do what he has to do to best establish field position.
After being a revelation as a redshirt freshman in 2007 — he earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors — the knock on Crier has been his lack of consistency. The gasps from the crowd over some of his distances have been mixed with groans from ill-timed shanks.
Which brings us to the second thing Crier and the special team’s unit has been working on before this season: The time from the snap to the kick.
Hammerschmidt is trying to get Crier more in sync — practicing as he plays. The get-off time for the punt has tended to be slower in practice … and then when Crier speeds things to avoid would-be punt blockers during games, all manner of inconsistent things can happen.
“He is so good at getting that ball off in 1.95 seconds, which is really fast. Anything below 2.0 is really quick,” Hammerschmidt said. “Well, he practices at about 2.2.”
Said Crier: “Last year, I guess I just wasn’t as comfortable. It was ridiculously fast (in games). It didn’t even make sense how I would punt the ball like that. All I have to do is calm down and focus, and the ball is going to go.”
Crier was fifth in the Pac-10 in punting average last season, and, in an unusual occurrence, every Pac-10 starting punter is back. But if Crier puts it all together, he would challenge as the league’s best (likely Cal’s Bryan Anger and UCLA’s Jeff Locke).
And Crier might even hit both of his jersey-number goals: 47-yard average, 4.7 hang time.
“I’ll make it work,” he said. “You can put that in there.”