We all know former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel's affinity for the punt as a play. Other than, well, turnovers, no other sequence in the game starts as a purely offensive play in nature and concludes as a defensive one. The play shapes so much – not solely field position, but also the mentalities of both the offenses and the defenses going into key series.
It should come as no surprise then that outside of the quarterback position (which of course Tressel played himself and spent a number of years helping matriculate), that punters would fall squarely on the shortlist of The Vest's favorites. And he had several rather good ones while at Ohio State. Whether the Buckeyes needed a coffin corner to put all the pressure on the opposing signal callers, or if the Buckeyes simply needed to reboot and regather themselves defensively to try and minimize the opposition's scoring chances, outside of one particularly nightmare block at the end of a game the NCAA (though not time) has since forgotten, the punt by and large served the Tressel-era well.
For the few nightmare fuel inducing scenarios, by and large, the play almost always went off without a hitch, and that's a testament to Jim Tressel the special teams-phile. You know what they say: when you do something right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all. But a few of those guys certainly did that better than others.
Andy Groom (1998-2003)
Groom first arrived on Ohio State's campus from Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus in 1998. In high school, he was a venerable prep swiss army knife playing quarterback, cornerback, kicker, as well as punter. Perhaps as notable(as would become common folklore during OSU's national championship season), Groom was a track star at Bishop Hartley and was heralded throughout his Buckeye playing days for his 4.4 40 speed and a 37 inch vertical. In 2001, Jim Tressel rewarded the former walk-on with a full-ride scholarship. He'd spend the next two seasons averaging 45 yards a kick en route to 2002 All-American honors.
Kyle Turano (2001-2005)
After beginning his career at Bowling Green, the transfer turned OSU walk-on earned starting honors for the 2004 season. With an Anthony Gonzalez-esque visage, Turano picked up where his predecessors left off and averaged 42.0 yards per punt on 65 attempts during the underwhelming 2004 8-4 season. With Ohio State in the process of upsetting rather favored Michigan in the fourth quarter of that year's edition of The Game, Turano unleashed a career high 71-yard punt with virtually no wind. It was perhaps the most poetic, Tresselean "F Michigan" moment in the rivalry's history this side of the Snow Bowl.
A.J. Trapasso (2004-2008)
Trapasso arrived in the Buckeyes' class of 2004 from Pickerington Center. Though he spent the '04 season being redshirted, he won the job outright in 2005. While Turano sought a NCAA exemption for a sixth season of eligibility he ultimately wouldn't get, there's doubt about whether or not he could've kept Trapasso off the field given how well he was booting it going into that season. Not unlike Groom, Trapasso played a bit of halfback while at Central, and is perhaps as known for a solid four year stint as a starter in Columbus as he was for this, his first ever play from scrimmage as a professional in the 2009 NFL Hall of Fame Game:
But the winner is...
B.J. Sander (1999-2003)
Though Groom's yard per kick average for his career bests Sander, Sander's one year as the Buckeyes' punter was one for the record books. He averaged a strong 43.3 yards per kick, and of his 82 boots, a remarkable 39 were downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line (best in the country). Another 16 of his kicks forced fair catches, meaning just 31 of those 82 were even returned on the year. Sander would finish fourth nationally in net punting on the season and at Michigan, in a game the rest of his teammates didn't ultimately bring their A-games, Sander was at his best, booming nine kicks for an average of 49.1 yards per kick. He'd ultimately be named Ohio State's first and only Ray Guy award winner, an honor awarded annually to the nation's best punter.
We know this was a contentious one, but ultimately, everyone wins. Most especially Ohio State – on account of awesome field position pretty much all game long.
All joking aside, who's your punter of the decade? Tell us in the poll as well as in the comments below.