The Blue Devils secured a commitment from the nation’s top high school kicker over the summer in Ross Martin of Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Martin told BDN earlier this summer that Duke has “always sort of been my dream school, because of the combination of world-class academics and D1 ACC football.” With the impending graduation of senior Will Snyderwine, Martin will have an immediate opportunity to contribute to the Blue Devil program in 2012, but first, he has big goals for his senior season at Walsh Jesuit. Since BDN last spoke with Ross, he has been named an Under Armour All-American, and nailed a game-winning 29-yard field goal in his season opener.
Ross checked in with BDN this week to update Duke fans on the start to his season:
Week One Game Summary: Our season opener against the Louisville Leopards ended in a thrilling finish, as I drilled a last second game-winning field goal as time expired to seal the win for the Warriors. We were down 26-24 with 2 seconds on the clock when I hit a 29 yard FG to win the game 27-26 as time expired. I also made my only other field goal attempt from 42 yards to take the early lead 3-0 in the first quarter. I kept Louisville pinned back all night with my kickoffs and punts, as they never started any drives from beyond their own 20 yard line. I earned the team award for special teams player of the week and was selected as Player of the Game by WHBC who provided local televised coverage of the game.
Week Two Game Summary:Our second game was another big rivalry game vs. St. Vincent St. Mary. Falling behind early by a score of 28-3 the Walsh Jesuit Warriors engineered a great comeback and fought back with passion to pull within two points of the Saints with the Warriors falling in a tough loss 48-46. I earned the team award for special teams player of the week.
Week Three Game Summary:Last night we hosted the defending State Champions, Columbus Bishop Watterson. It was another tight game going down to the last few seconds with us connecting on a 15 yard pass for a touchdown with 35 seconds remaining to take the lead 26-24, which was also the final score of the game. We now have a record of 2-1 on the season. I was 2 for 3 on field goals, hitting from 35 and 34 yards, and the one that I missed was on a mishandled snap that was laying flat on the ground instead of standing upright. On the season I’m now 5 of 6 on field goals with conversions made from 42, 35, 34, 29, and 27 yards. I also went 2 for 2 on PAT’s last night and am now 10 for 10 on the season and extending my high school career streak to a perfect 54 for 54. In addition, I had another great night of punting for the Warriors with an average of 48 yards on 4 punts and a long of 61 yards.
PAT’s: 10 for 10 (Extending perfect HS career streak to 54 for 54)
FG’s: 5 for 6 (42, 35, 34, 29, 27)
KO’s: 10 of 12 for touchbacks
Punting: Average Distance: 42 yards / Long: 61
Thanks for checking in with us, Ross! Enjoy your bye week and good luck against Lake Catholic on September 24!
BDN will have periodic updates from Ross and his future 2012 Duke classmates throughout the season.
Prior to the arrival of Head Coach David Cutcliffe, Duke fans remember all too well the days of missed field goals (and extra points!!), botched snaps, muffed punts, and missed tackles. Duke’s special teams is now light years ahead of where it was just a few seasons ago, and should continue to improve and become a strength for the 2011 Blue Devils.
Losses: Nick Maggio
Key returners: Will Snyderwine (R-Sr.), Paul Asack (R-Jr.)
2010 Review: Lou Groza semifinalist Will Snyderwine handled the kicking duties for the second straight season in 2010. After taking over for the injured Maggio in 2009, the former walk-on has now hit 38 of 44 (86.4%) field goal attempts in the past two seasons for the Blue Devils, with a career long of 52 yards at Georgia Tech in 2010. Snyderwine converted 32 extra points in 2010, extending his perfect career streak to 56/56. The combined field goal and extra point totals placed second all-time at Duke, with 95 points, and earned him All-American honors by the American Football Coaches Association, making him the first Blue Devil All-American kicker in school history. His value to the Duke team extended beyond field goals and extra points, as he increased his touchback numbers from 2/47 in 2009 to 11/60 in 2010. Charged to work on on-side kicks last offseason by Coach Cutcliffe, Snyderwine delivered, as the Blue Devils were able to recover 4 of 6 on-side kicks in 2010. Overall, the Duke kickoff unit ranked 3rd in the ACC and 18th in the country, allowing just 19.71 yards per return, with opponents average start at the 24 yard line.
2011 Outlook: Snyderwine returns to anchor the kicking game again in 2011, and has already garnered several preseason accolades, including the Lou Groza Award Watch List and several preseason All-American honors. The former walk-on has developed into a potent weapon for the Duke offense and special teams units. Snyderwine appears ready to cap off a historic career at Duke with a big senior season. With increased depth throughout the roster, the kick coverage should continue to improve and become a strength for the Blue Devils. Big plays occasionally haunted the Duke coverage unit, and they did give up one touchdown return on the season against Alabama. The only concern with the Duke kicking game in 2011 might be depth at kicker, where an injury to Snyderwine could significantly weaken the Blue Devils.
Losses: Kevin Jones
Key returners: Alex King (Sr.)
Newcomers: Will Monday (Fr.)
2010 Review: Jones lost the starting job to King after a botched punt against Wake Forest in 2010. King was mostly dependable for the Duke punting game, averaging 41.1 yards per punt, finishing 7th in the ACC. Of 55 punts on the year, King was able to pin opponents within the 20 yards line 21 times, with 6 touchbacks. The Blue Devils’ punters achieved a net of 33.6 yards per punt, which ranked 9th in the conference and 106th in the nation. The punt coverage, however, faired worse, allowing 14.4 yards per return, which ranked last in the conference and 117th in the nation. The Blue Devils were only able to force 7 fair catches on the season and allowed a punt return touchdown against Maryland.
2011 Outlook: Punting appeared to be the biggest weakness among Duke’s special teams unit in 2010, and stands to be an area of significant improvement in 2011. The hope is that with better depth, speed, and athleticism, the punt coverage unit will do a better job of limiting opponent returns. Punting should improve as well, as King now has nearly a full year of starting under his belt, and will be pushed by highly-touted freshman Will Monday. The competition between King and Monday will definitely be one to watch this month.
Key returners: Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Jr.), Desmond Scott (Jr.), Conner Vernon (Jr.), Josh Snead (So.), Juwan Thompson (So.)
2010 Review: Scott, Snead, and Thompson were the leading return men for the Blue Devils in 2010, and Duke ended the season 4th in the ACC with an average of 20.9 yards per return. As true freshmen, Snead and Thompson ranked 7th and 8th individually with averages of 22.0 and 21.7 yards, respectively. The Duke return game provided the offense with an average starting position of the 27 yard line.
2011 Outlook: Duke has yet to return a kickoff for a touchdown under Coach Cutcliffe. Will 2011 be the year? With the three primary return men all back, Duke seems poised to continue to use kick returns as a strength. Scott, Snead, and Thompson will continue to share carries in the Duke backfield, and will also split the kick return duties. With their combination of size, vision, and speed, it may be difficult for any newcomers to break into the rotation, but the Duke staff has shown a desire to rotate multiple return men in an effort to keep players fresh throughout the season. The kick return job is another key competition to watch during training camp.
Key returners: Lee Butler (Sr.), Johnny Williams (Sr.)
2010 Review: Butler handled the vast majority of punt return duties in 2010, finishing with a respectable 8.6 yards per return, which ranked 5th in the ACC and 31st in the nation. With a season long of 33 yards, Butler was able to consistently advance the ball, but rarely broke out for big returns. Williams showed some explosiveness as a punt returner in 2009, but due to injuries and a position change, only returned 2 punts in 2010.
2011 Outlook: With both Butler and Williams back, along with a group of speedy youngsters headed by Jamison Crowder, Duke appears ready to develop the punt return game into a significant weapon. There is likely to be significant competition for the starting job, and with some improved blocking, 2011 might be the year that fans see an explosive punt return game from the Blue Devils. Coach Cutcliffe has historically emphasized the kicking game in past training camps, and the punt return unit is likely to see significant reps this August.
Among the many improvements since Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s arrival in Durham, none may be more significant than the Blue Devils’ special teams. Duke has gone from a team that repeatedly failed to execute on special teams to featuring a preseason All-ACC and All-American kicker in Will Snyderwine. Blue Devil fans have almost become spoiled by Snyderwine’s reliability, and the improvements in punting and returns have been apparent in recent years. On Thursday, Duke solidified their special teams play for the future by securing a commitment from top placekicker Ross Martin, beating out an impressive list of programs. At 5’10″ and 185 pounds from Walsh Jesuit HS in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Martin earned 1st Team All-State honors as a junior, and was named the #2 kicker in the country by Chris Sailer and the #3 kicker in the country by Kohl’s. Needless to say, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff is thrilled to add another future special teams star to the Duke program. Duke fans can get a look at the Blue Devils’ future kicker:
BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil shortly after his commitment.
BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?
Pretty much, when my older brother was looking at schools, he visited Duke and I went with him, and that was about five years ago and that’s when I started falling in love with it. Since then, it’s always sort of been my dream school because of the combination of great, world-class academics and D1 ACC football.
BDN: Can you talk about your recent visit and your relationship with the Duke coaching staff?
I’ve been in contact with the kicking coach, Coach Zac Roper, for awhile now. He actually came up to my school to visit with my head coach and that’s the first time we met in person. We hit it off and he’s an outstanding kicking coach. He has a tremendous expertise of the kicking game and I’m definitely confident that he can get me to the next level. They asked me to come out to their summer camp, and I went out last Friday and kicked in the stadium for Coach Cutcliffe and a couple other coaches and that night they offered me, and then just yesterday I went back to campus to commit with my family.
BDN: Scouts obviously have said great things about your kicking ability; how would you describe your strengths in your own words?
Well, probably my biggest strength is my mental ability and focus, and also my accuracy and range for field goals. I’ve hit field goals as far out in practice as 65 yards. For kickoffs, last year I had an over 80% touchback percentage.
BDN: Obviously with your ability, some other schools have taken notice. Who are the other schools that you were in contact with and were considering before your commitment to Duke?
The other schools that had offered me were obviously Duke, and then Texas, Pitt, Rutgers, Iowa State, Kent State. And then from the Ivy League, Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Dartmouth, and Columbia. I’d also been taken to Northwestern, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Cal-Berkeley, too.
BDN: That’s definitely an impressive list, so congratulations and I’m sure Duke fans and coaches are excited to have you join the Blue Devil family.
Oh yeah, I’m definitely thrilled.
BDN: What are your plans for the rest of your summer as you head into your senior year?
Actually I’m heading out to California for Chris Sailer’s Top 12 camp, where he invites the top 12 kickers in the country to compete out there. I’m actually doing that next week. After that, it’s pretty much back to high school football, with summer lifting and practice coming up.
BDN: Well that’s a great honor and best of luck in California next week. Is there anything else you want Duke fans to know about you?
No, not really, other than I’m just extremely excited to start off there. I really felt at home out there, just getting to meet everyone.