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Wisconsin football: special teams speak to the media

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Punt returner competition, a new long snapper and who exactly is going to be kicking field goals?

Jack Van Dyke kicking a field goal at practice.
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications

Chris Haering

  • On the kicker battle: “It is a battle right now, a true competition. Collin [Larsh] obviously has the game experience when it comes to the field goals and PATs. But Jack [Van Dyke] has done a really good job in the offseason and this first part of spring practice. I see this competition continuing as we head into fall camp. I’m excited because whoever emerges will have truly won the job.”
  • Notes that during red zone scrimmage situations he likes to see who can handle that pressure.
  • Marty Strey is emergency long snapper since Duncan McKinley had an ACL injury early in spring and won’t be available into the fall. Notes that they’ll probably have to bring in another long snapper this summer.
  • “Excited for Pete [Bowden], he’s worked really hard to change his body and has become very solid in protection which is just as important as snapping for us. Pete checks all the boxes right now and I’m excited for what he’s going to bring this fall.”
  • Devin Chandler, Danny Davis, Jack Dunn, Stephan Bracey (“he’s going to offer a lot of competition at both the punt return and the kick return position”), Dean Engram are listed by Haering as guys who could be returning punts this year.
Devin Chandler at practice
Kelli Steffes; UW Athletics Communications
  • On if Wisconsin will use one kicker for short kicks and one for long kicks: “In the end you’d like to just settle on the guy and he can handle all types of kicks.”
  • On punting inconsistencies: “Andy [Vujnovich] probably wasn’t as polished in some of the details of punting. Certainly ultra-talented and he’s got a big leg. The thing that a lot of people don’t understand with punting...it’s the catching of the snap. Andy has worked extremely hard in the offseason on the JUGS machine, getting a ton of snaps just thrown to him, to have the confidence in your hands to minimize any of the movement of the ball when you get to your dropping. You’re going to see a big difference from him.”

Andy Vujnovich

  • “My goal has been, wherever the snap is, to catch it where it’s in front of my body because every tenth of a second counts and matters in my job.” Notes that he wants to make sure he’s in position to finish the process of the kick.
  • Notes how different the snapping ability is at FBS schools compared to his time at University of Dubuque.
  • He said that last year, even with COVID, was a nice “ease in” for him moving up levels because it wasn’t so overwhelming with fans and now he’s ready to take that next step.

Collin Larsh

  • “A big thing I’ve been working on this offseason is leg strength.” Said that he reached out to former NFL kicker John Carney and he’s on a new regiment. Notes that he wants to find a balance between increased power and keeping his accuracy.
  • “With the whole competition aspect, every year you come in here they tell you it’s going to be a competition. Me and Jack are pushing each other each day to get better.”
  • Mentions that Marty Strey (the emergency long snapper) was a buddy of his in high school since they are from the same area and that Strey would send him snaps on occasion.

Conor Schlichting

  • “From a technical standpoint I wanted to work on my consistency and get higher hang time on my punts.” Also notes that he wants to be in a leadership position as he is a veteran guy on the special teams unit.
  • Isn’t worried about Bowden replacing Adam Bay as long snapper because Bowden learned under Bay for the past two years and “learned from the best.”

Jack Van Dyke

  • “The biggest thing that I’m working on right now is just staying consistent with my follow through. It’s a big mental game, it’s just like golf. One thing I’m working on this spring is staying confident.”
  • Notes that he wants to treat every kick the same and that when he wakes up every day he chooses to have a good day.