Les Miles: “Our Australian punters are extremely well-adjusted”
When imagining Australians in America, it’s impossible not to think of Crocodile Dundee or Hugh Jackman. LSU coach Les Miles, however, thinks punters.
Miles has created a punter pipeline from the land down under. The Tigers have had at least one Australian punter on their roster since the 2010 season and three Aussies in total.
Each of these punters has faced plenty of adjustments to American football. Australian players are allowed to get a running head start before they kick and some colleges have adopted a similar “rugby style” for punting, but LSU typically deploys the traditional “catch and kick” method. That was just one of the adjustments these specialists have gone through since arriving. Miles spoke about how well these punters have adjusted from Australian football to the American game and added there isn’t a big difference between the two.
“I think our Australian punters are extremely well-adjusted in terms of the athleticism,” Miles said on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference. “Their game from Australia is one where you run off to your right, kick with your right foot and run off to the left, kick with your left foot. It translates very comfortably to how we kick it and what we want to have done.”
Miles said these players have no issues modifying their style as long as they possess the ability.
“I don’t think there’s really too much problem at all,” Miles said. “If a guy’s a talented punter or kicker, he can do it.”
This Australian experiment has paid off rather nicely for Miles.
Brad Wing started the Aussie migration when he came to Baton Rouge, La. from Melbourne after playing just one high school season for Parkview Baptist High School. Wing averaged 44.6 yards per punt in two seasons with the Tigers and made it to the NFL with the New York Giants.
LSU’s current punter, Jamie Keehn, hadn’t even played high school football when he arrived at LSU from Gracemere, Queensland, Australia. Keehn was a fantastic track and field athlete and competed in the javelin throw and rowing. He averaged 44.9 yards per punt on 71 punts last season, and is averaging 39.6 on 28 attempts in 2015. Eleven of the 28 have led to the opponent starting inside its own 20-yard line.
The Tigers actually have a surplus of Aussie punters. Freshman Josh Growden, Keehn’s backup this season, is a Sydney native. Growden arrived at LSU after playing rugby in the Australian Football League.
Although unconventional, Miles has done a good job of finding skilled punters in not so obvious places.