Brockhaus-Kann ready for shot as USF punter
TAMPA -- Punting, you might think, is all about having a strong leg. USF sophomore Justin Brockhaus-Kann hopes to show there's more to it this fall.
Brockhaus-Kann came to USF in 2008 with a reputation as a strong punter but wasn't able to get on the field in his first two seasons with the Bulls. This summer, seeing the starting punting job wide-open for 2010, he set out to improve his consistency, starting with a new technique for holding the ball off the snap before each punt.
"I changed my drop completely," said Brockhaus-Kann, a 19-year-old from Winter Springs. "Punting is all from the hand to the foot -- it's 90 percent drop and 10 percent leg."
His new drop -- holding the ball on the side "as if it's shaking your hand," he says -- has made it easier to get a tight spiral on a kick, which allows the ball to travel farther. And after a summer of Skip Holtz expressing concern he didn't have a punter, Brockhaus-Kann has shown enough in the first two weeks of camp to have the punting job to lose.
"This summer boosted my confidence and my consistency," said Brockhaus-Kann, who will also serve as USF's holder on field goals and extra points this season. "I've got to prove to (Holtz) and I'm a different punter now."
With last year's starter, Delbert Alvarado, graduated and briefly in camp with the Dallas Cowboys, Holtz said he's seen an encouraging change in his new punter and is finding the consistency he needs from the position.
"In the spring, he'd boom some, then the next three were off the side of his foot," Holtz said. "He's gotten that together, and the first week of camp, he was really booming the ball. A good punter is very much like a golf swing, where you have to get to a point where it's the same swing every time."
Brockhaus-Kann's father, Jeff Brockhaus, was a college teammate of former USF coach Jim Leavitt's at Missouri, and he still holds the Tigers' school record with an 82-yard punt against Kansas State in 1980. While that connection and familiarity helped Brockhaus-Kann choose the Bulls, he said he's seen a greater emphasis on special-teams units in practice since Holtz took over as head coach.
"It's way different from last year -- we focus on special teams 10 times more than we did last year. Every day in practice, we're working on every type of scenario," he said.
Holtz and special-teams coach Vernon Hargreaves have high standards for punters -- their punter at East Carolina the past three years, Matt Dodge, ranked second in the nation last year, averaging 45.8 yards, and was drafted by the New York Giants. Holtz has reminded his punters that Dodge didn't start out as an All-American, but got there with steady improvement, adding at least 1.5 yards to his average in each of his three seasons at ECU.
"Brock is the same type of kid," Hargreaves said. "Matt had a big leg, but he kept improving over the three years we were there. Brock has the chance to be that kind of player for us. His consistency level is way higher this fall, and he's made us a lot more comfortable."
He has something else in common with Dodge -- size you don't expect from a punter. Just as Dodge is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Brockhaus-Kann is 6-2 and 226, with an all-county nod as a high school tight end to go with all-state honors as a punter.
Holtz went into preseason camp with an open competition between Brockhaus-Kann and true freshman Chris Veron, but halfway through his preparations for the Sept. 4 opener against Stony Brook, he knows who his punter is.
"At this point, Brockhaus-Kann would be our starter," Holtz said. "He's the clear-cut better punter, and it's because he's been more consistent."