Bucs' tryout players include prolific Iowa State punter
He'll need a good weekend at rookie minicamp just to emerge with a contract with the Bucs, but one of the more intriguing tryout players in Tampa this weekend is former Iowa State punter Kirby van der Kamp.
The former Cyclones punter went undrafted, despite being touted by some outlets as the best punter available in the draft -- CBS ranked him best and projected him as a fifth-round pick. The only punter actually drafted was Miami's Pat O'Donnell, taken by the Bears in the sixth round; NFL.com had van der Kamp tied with O'Donnell for its highest grade, while ESPN ranked him as the No. 6 punter in the draft.
Van der Kamp was a four-year starter for the Cyclones, and his career stats are impressive -- 99 career punts downed inside the opposing 20-yard line, with 71 career punts of 50 yards or longer. His career long was a 74-yard kick as a true freshman in 2010. Asked which statistic he was more proud of -- the long kicks or the well-placed kicks -- he chose his directional control.
"Both have their own special place, but I'd have to go with the inside-the-20," he said. "That's something that takes a lot of skill and accuracy. You can't just open up your leg. Our stadium is really windy, so that takes a lot of effort, not only on my part, but from my coverage team to help me out. We were a directional team, and inside the 20 was very important, trying to put it right on the sideline to prevent big returns."
Another ridiculous stat for van der Kamp is that he went 7-for-7 on fake punts in his Iowa State career, becoming a fan favorite with five runs and two successful passes. There's one at the 0:50 mark of this video, and here's one vs. West Virginia where he lowers his shoulder on an opponent to gain the first down.
"Coach (Paul) Rhoads drew up a lot of different schemes, and you have to trust he knows what he's talking about. Obviously being 7-for-7, he does," van der Kamp said. "It's just having faith that those guys will get in position to make those blocks when the time comes."
Here's a video on van der Kamp and his punting from the Big 12 after last season.
The Bucs have veteran Michael Koenen returning after three years as the team's punter, but Tampa Bay ranked 24th in the NFL in punting and 25th in net punting. Only one NFL team had fewer punts downed inside the 20, and the team ranked 25th in its ratio of punts inside the 20 vs. touchbacks. The team has a second punter on roster right now in Jacob Schum, who was signed by the Bucs in January, days after Lovie Smith was hired as head coach. Schum was briefly with the Browns in spring 2013 but has never played in an NFL game.
Tampa Bay will also reportedly have Jacksonville University's Dylan Lynch -- who handled field goals, punts and kickoffs for the Dolphins -- in as a tryout player this weekend. Lynch averaged 40 yards on punts this past season with a long of 79, including 10 punts of 50-plus yards.