August 29, 2008

Nortman stabilizes punting position

MADISON, Wis. - Freshman Brad Nortman has a tall order ahead of him this fall and upcoming season. Not only is he about to begin his first semester as a college undergrad, he has the specific duty to pin opponents deep and alter field position on Saturday's after he prevailed during the relatively quick punter positional battle with Brad DeBauche earlier this month.

The three star punter from Brookfield Central high school kind of has that boy next door personality. The everyday kid is polite, friendly and excited to be a Badger. Oh yeah, he has a monster punting leg that led him to believe he had a chance to secure the punting spot as a true freshman too.

"I knew that it was going to be a competition and I knew that I couldn't just come in and just take what I wanted," Nortman said earlier this week. "I came in here with confidence, kind of wanting to show what I can do. It looks like that's enough to get me a starting position."

After former punter Ken DeBauche exhausted his eligibility after starting at the position for the past four years, the Badgers were looking for a replacement. The younger DeBauche, still on the Badger roster, seemed to have the upper hand, but inconsistencies and lack of power in his leg opened the door for Nortman. As camp rolled around, the more confident and consistent Nortman overtook the under matched DeBauche.

"Special teams is as much a mental game as it is physical," Nortman said. "Going out there with confidence and knowing that you're going to kick a good ball-visualizing is just as important as working on it and working on your drops."

Over the course of recent Badger history, punters have been very consistent and long time starters. A position that mostly receives attention for the bad, has actually been very solid for the Badgers recently and has helped them win games.

"We've shown clips to kids about where our defense starts," head coach Bret Bielema said earlier in camp. "If it starts inside the 20, they (opponents) have a 1 in 30 chance of scoring and that's a huge impact on the game."

The mission for Nortman is to try and recreate those past successes, a task easier said than done. A season ago, DeBauche averaged 41.6 yards per punt and a net average of 35.3 yards. This true freshman wants to do even better than that.

"Definitely no touchdowns from a team standpoint and have a net punt average that's 38 to 40," Nortman said. "That means I'm getting a good hang time and coverage is getting down there. But (really) just anything I can do to help the team and get the defense in good field position."

And if a potential situation arises where Nortman will need to make a touchdown saving tackle, will he be confident in making the play? The answer is simple.

"Absolutely," he said. "Absolutely."

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