Thursday, November 11, 1999

UC punter casts long net

Wulfeck has Bearcats No. 1 in coverage

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Adam Wulfeck — the University of Cincinnati punter whose team is tied for No.1 in net punt coverage in NCAA Division I — once considered punting as merely a side job.

        At Beechwood High School, he was so busy racking up yards as a running back, punting was an afterthought.

        “I'd be in there following a 12-play drive or something and I'd just try to kick the ball as far as I could,” Wulfeck said.

        Now, punting is film study, sideline drills, constant practice.

        And it's paying his way through college.

        Wulfeck could have gone to Marshall or Toledo or Eastern Kentucky, and basically been guaranteed a scholarship. At the latter two schools, he would have gotten to run the ball. Instead, he chose UC on the promise that if he won the punting job full-time as a freshman, he'd get a scholarship as a sophomore.

        He wanted to play Division I, and he liked UC's schedule.

        “My hat's off to him,” UC coach Rick Minter said. “He's consistent and unselfish. He doesn't worry about his punting average. He does what the team needs, coffin corner punts, things like that. He's a producer.”

        Wulfeck got his start in punting as a seventh-grader when he was shagging balls for his older brother, Brad, who at the time was a senior star running back at Beechwood.

        From Brad, Adam learned the perfect drop (“flat, as though you're sliding it off a table”), foot position (arched, with toe pointed) and foot-swing (slightly inward slice across the bottom of the ball).

        “Those were the basics and I still use them today,” Wulfeck said. “Up here (UC), it's gotten more complex, things like hip angle and all that, but it's still punting.”

        Net punting coverage is the holy grail of field position in football. A large net-punting coverage means the higher and deeper the punter is drilling the ball, and the quicker the “gunners” (outside defenders) are getting down field to either force a fair catch or tackle the return man.

        “We've punted about 40 times already and they have had only nine returns for about 19 yards,” Wulfeck said.

        UC's gunners are LaVar Glover and Ivan Fields. Wulfeck's snapper is Chad Vordem Esche (Norwood High). Among the other players Minter credited: Tony Smikle, Isaac Thomas, Eddie Johnson, Derrick Adams, DeJuan Gossett, Freddy Smith and Troy Evans.

        Despite his outstanding prep running career, Wulfeck has run the ball only twice from punt formation at UC. Once was on a blocked punt at Miami of Florida, when he picked up 14 yards. “Unfortunately, we were about fourth-and-23,” he said.

        “I was thinking touchdown — I could see the end zone down the sideline — but their closing speed at a place like Miami is amazing,” Wulfeck said. “I was on the ground before I knew it. The other run was a (bounced) snap that I didn't really catch very good. I put a weak move on a guy. I'd lost my (running) skills.”

        UC has a variety of fake punts in the playbook. Wulfeck's favorite — although he has never used it — is a snap to the punter protector (PP), who runs wide and has the option to pitch the ball to Wulfeck.

        “But our "PP' guy, Troy Evans (Lakota) is a defensive guy, a linebacker,” Wulfeck said. “He's already told me, "Don't even think about. I'm not gonna pitch the ball to you. I'm gonna run with it.'”

        • What: UC at East Carolina

        • When: 2 p.m. Saturday

        • TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net, WLW-AM (700)


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