13. Dan Orseske | P | Junior (RS) | 6'3” 205 lbs G PT YDS AVG IN20YD 12 57 2,111 37.0 12
Don’t x-out the window! Listen to me first.
I know, it’s hard to get too hyped-up about a punter, especially on a team with glaring questions on defense and offense. (For example, Minnesota’s top returning players at running back and wide receiver totaled 229 yards and 190 yards last year, respectively.) But if the Gophers are going to succeed, they need to be a team that minimizes mistakes and takes advantage of field position. Yes, that’s much more boring than relying on spectacular 65-yard touchdown runs from the likes of Denard Robinson or Braxton Miller.
But plainly stated, the Gophers simply aren’t good enough to overcome punts like this:
Orseske has a powerful leg, but for whatever reason, he’s been inconsistent to the point of being ineffective. After a 9-yard punt – with the wind – he was benched against Northwestern. That came a week after the above 4-yarder, which he downed himself.
Here’s the Cliff Notes of Orseske’s career: He had a few good kicks as a freshman, but then came down with mononucleosis and was redshirted. In 2010, then-coach Tim Brewster and his staff changed Orseske’s kicking form to a rugby style. If you watched a game, you noticed the difference, not only as Orseske took a few steps to the left and then kicked, but also in the lack of distance the kicks sailed.
It wasn’t something the kicker had done previously, which showed.
Call it a microcosm of Brewster’s coaching strategy, but the Gophers ranked 120th, dead last in Division I football, in punting average that year.
Before last season, Coach Jerry Kill talked to the Star-Tribune about Orseske needing more confidence and needing to provide him with better coaching. Gone, for example, were the rugby-style punts. Still, there was virtually no improvement in 2011 as Orseske’s average punt improved by less than a yard. Once again, the punter was learning different footwork, but it’s hard to blame all of his struggles on coaching turnover.
He kicked into the wind a few times with disastrous results; he had several games with punts that didn’t pass 10 yards. There was a six-yard punt against Illinois (along with three kicks between 20 and 30 yards that day) and against the wind in Michigan, he had a 14-yard kick and a 7-yard kick. The Michigan game showed the punter’s inconsistency, too, as he started the game with a 64-yarder along with four other punts that game of more than 40 yards.
Whether Orseske’s problem is technical or mental is unclear, but he can absolutely boot the football when the planets align. He boomed a kick 68 yards against Iowa last year and had six punts of 50 yards or more in 2011.
Still, if he continues to struggle, look of rsenior David Schwerman and redshirt freshman Peter Mortell to push him out of a starting position.
If the Gophers are going to reach bowl eligibility, they are going to have to overachieve, they are going to have to win some games they shouldn’t and they are going to have to play mistake-free, ball control football. Giving the defense strong field position will be a large part of that and if the Gophers will be successful this year, Orseske will need to minimize his single-digit punts and deliver more consistently.