LSU punter Zach Von Rosenberg played his best game of the season in the worst weather conditions of his career.
Following his stunning performance at Tennessee, the 27-year-old redshirt freshman has punted his way into the Southeastern Conference Specialist of the Week.
“If you would’ve told me before the game when we were punting on the field that I would be the special teams player of the week, I’d have laughed at you,” Von Rosenberg said. “Before the game, I really didn’t hit one good ball.”
That changed during the game as Von Rosenberg punted five times for an average of 49.2 yards and a long of 60 yards. He pinned the Vols inside their own 20-yard line three times.
As a former minor league pitcher, Von Rosenberg never had a chance to play in this type of weather. On Saturday, temperatures were at a high of 68 degrees with winds blowing 20 miles per hour.
“It was very cool to play in that weather,” Von Rosenberg said. “Both sidelines kind of embraced it, jumping around, getting the crowd hyped up. People that were staying in the stands were jacked up. It was fun, but at the same time it was brutal weather. It was fun to play in.”
Von Rosenberg said the harsh weather caused more problems for Tennessee’s returner Marquez Callaway than it did for him. The way the wind was blowing threw the ball around in the air, causing Callaway to chase the ball as he tries to track it in the air.
Von Rosenberg, on the other hand, tried to spiral the ball, with absolutely no wobble on it, as well as could in the situation.
“You want to have the nose down a little bit on the ball,” Von Rosenberg said. “You don’t try to kill the ball because if you’re counteracting mother nature, mother nature’s going to win. If you don’t have entire spiral on the ball, it’s going to tumble and go only 30 yards.”
Since becoming a part of LSU’s two-punter system, Von Rosenberg has punted 32 times with an average of 43.4 yards per punt. He shares the duties with sophomore Josh Growden, who handles the shorter distance punts with an average of 36 yard per punt.
Von Rosenberg cites Growden’s control of the ball and ability to place it wherever he wants as the reasons that makes Growden such a great asset to the team. Accuracy competitions are no competition to Von Rosenberg, who cannot pinpoint the ball to the degree that Growden can.
“We call it an Aussie punt,” Von Rosenberg said of his Australian teammate’s abilities. “It’s unbelievable. He’ll hit trashcans from 50 yards away, it’s kind of bizarre. I don’t know how much practice it would take for me to get that good. I don’t know if I ever could top his abilities because he’s that impressive.”
Both Growden and Von Rosenberg face their toughest challenge of the season when they go up against Texas A&M returner Christian Kirk, who has 175 yards in punt returns and one touchdown.
“He’s very explosive, probably the best returner we’re going to face,” Von Rosenberg said. “So my job is to keep the ball away from him or take him out of the game as best as I can. Usually the best player on the team is the returner so he’s definitely a major threat on my radar screen.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron says that the punters must strategically place the ball in places where Kirk cannot get to it or where it hangs in the air long enough for the coverage to get in place.
Getting both the distance and the hang time of the punt is a struggle between finding a happy medium, Von Rosenberg said. He does not like to be consumed by one or the other, rather he wants to find the consistency between the two.
“Our punters have done a tremendous job,” Orgeron said. “Tommie Robinson coached our punt team. Coach Greg McMahon overseeing it. Our coverage is going to be good, but we'll be challenged this week. There's going to be leverage.We have to have a good game plan against Kirk.”
Von Rosenberg must continue to remain consistent throughout the last regular season game and into the bowl game. Powerful and consistent punts, such as the numbers Von Rosenberg has been producing, can add so much to LSU’s special teams unit.
Von Rosenberg is well onto making his way to becoming a true asset on special teams for the Tigers.
“I need to improve my flexibility and my drop mechanics, but getting hang time and spiraling the football is coming,” he said. “I have, in my opinion, a year away from being a lot better at punter. I’m losing weight, I started doing yoga, I have a feeling I can be a lot better as a punter.”