Overlooked Loss from 2011

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Going into the 2012 season, Badger fans will be worried about how the team will replace players like Russell Wilson, Nick Toon, Peter Konz, etc. One player that will be missed severely is P Brad Nortman. That’s right, a punter!  

Nortman was rated a top 10 punter nationally coming out of high school and was UW’s starting punter from 2008-2011. Nortman was probably the strength of the Special Teams unit – always consistent, pinning the opposing team deep in their own territory, and could pull off fake punt, and we really didn’t have to worry about Nortman kicking one of these (sorry for the quality, best we could find):

 

Going into the 2012 season, the Badgers have to replace both Nortman and PK Philip Welch. Welch was also a solid field goal kicker, but he did miss 4 games last season which gave backup kicker Kyle French some much needed game experience kicking field goals and kickoffs. Nortman, however, didn’t miss a game and he always delivered.

Brad Nortman Career Statistics

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What’s the greatest achievement for Brad Nortman’s career as a punter for UW?
A. He started in every game for 4 years (Note: Wisconsin did not punt in the game against Indiana in 2010).
B. He averaged about 42 yards per punt
C. Nearly 35% of his punts landed inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.
D. The percentage of his punts landing inside the 20 yard line increased each season: 28.8% (2008), 34.7% (2009), 36.8% (2010), 41.3% (2011).

Any one of these answers is plausible and would be a good argument. I would argue answer D is probably the most important and telling statistic. When a punter can position the ball inside the 20 yard line, it not only forces the opposition to drive at least 80 yards for touchdown, but it also forces them to adjust play-calling for having to drive the ball essentially the length of the field. In effect, it also creates opportunities for the Badger defense to attack the QB more.

It’s pretty evident that Nortman’s punting prowess (yes, prowess) contributed to the Badgers’ success the last 3 seasons at least – Champs Sports Bowl victory, 2 Big Ten titles, 2 Rose Bowl appearances. But, punting is not all that Nortman contributed to the team.

Some of his greatest achievements could be overlooked –the 2 beautifully executed fake punts that resulted in first downs and his so-called “flop” in the Big 10 Championship game against MSU last season that gave the ball back to the Badgers and sealed a trip to Pasadena. The most memorable for Badger fanswas probably the fake Nortman pulled against Iowa in 2010 – he ran for 17 yards, kept the drive alive, and Montee Ball ran it in for a touchdown, giving the Badgers a huge comeback victory and win they needed to keep their Rose Bowl hopes alive.

Going into the 2012 season, it’s predicted that walk-on redshirt freshman Drew Meyer will step in as the punter for the Badgers this season. The good news for fans is that as a senior in high school, Meyer won the Wisconsin state’s top punter award and averaged 40.4 yards per punt. It’s hopeful that Meyer makes a seamless transition into the position after what is possibly the greatest career for a punter Wisconsin has ever had. Good luck, Drew.