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Cameron Johnston is Ohio State's human field position flipper

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In his third season with the Buckeyes, the former Australian Rules Football player has developed into one of the nation's top punters.

A match made in Special Teams Heaven: Cameron Johnston and Urban Meyer.
A match made in Special Teams Heaven: Cameron Johnston and Urban Meyer.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

More than two years after Urban Meyer instructed Ohio State special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs to utilize any means possible to find the Buckeyes a punter, the partnership between one of college football's foremost programs and a native Australian who had never played a down of American football before arriving in Columbus prior to the 2013 season is stronger than ever.

In his third season as a starter, Cameron Johnston is once again atop or near the national leaderboard in most punting categories, improving on his superb freshman and sophomore campaigns:


2013

2014

2015

Punting Average

44.0

45.1

47.2

Punting Average rank (Big Ten/National)

1st/16th

T-2nd/8th*

1st/5th

Punts/Long

49/71

48/73

28/67

Games with 50-yard average**

1

1***

3

Punts downed inside 10

14

15

N/A

Punts downed inside 20

31

26

10

Touchbacks

2

3

5

FO Field Position Rank (National)

8th

5th

N/A

FO Opponent’s Field Position Rank (National)

2nd

1st

N/A

Note: Punts inside 10 and 20 are unofficial; they are compiled by sports information directors. … Statistics for Football Outsiders’ Field Position ranking system are not available until after Week 7 of the season.

*Johnston didn’t punt enough times per game in 2014 to qualify for the national leaderboard, but I took the liberty of listing where Johnston would have ranked had he averaged the required 3.6 punts per game. Johnston averaged 3.2 punts per game in 2014.

**Minimum of three punts in a game.

***Johnson came awfully close to a 50-yard average in two other games, averaging 49.8 yards (five punts) and 49.0 yards (four punts).

The Thunder from Down Under's versatile punting talents have been on display over Ohio State's last four games:

*Against Northern Illinois, Johnston averaged 52.2 yards over six punts, including bombs of 50, 56, 62, and 63 yards.

*Johnson was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 51.5 yards over four punts against Western Michigan.

*Punting from his own 18 early in the first quarter against Indiana, Johnson crushed a 61-yarder that was downed at the IU 21. In the second quarter with Ohio State down 7-6, Johnston unloaded a 54-yarder to the IU 30 that was returned for two yards. In the third quarter with the Buckeyes up 13-10, Johnston's 33-yard boot forced a fair catch at the IU 9. Johnston's typically-strong hang-time forced three fair catches vs. the Hoosiers.

*Johnston was really special last Saturday vs. Maryland and Will Likely, the nation's leader in punt returns of at least 20 yards (six) and the only player with three punt returns of at least 40 yards.

On Ohio State's opening drive, Johnston uncorked a 65-yarder. Likely had an 11-yard return, and Maryland started on its own 18. In the second quarter with Ohio State ahead 14-7, Johnston launched a 60-yard bomb from his own end zone. In the third quarter with the game level at 21, Johnston's 39-yard punt was downed at the Maryland 5, a boot that kickstarted a 3-and-out for the Terrapins. Due to Johnston's play and the sterling coverage skills of Ohio State's punt return unit, Likely was limited to 12.5 yards per return on two returns Saturday, well below his season average of 22.65 (which is second-best in the country). For the day, Johnston averaged 54.7 yards over three punts.

Johnston already owns two Ohio State records: single-game average (57.0 vs. Illinois in 2013) and punts inside the 20 for a single season (31 in 2013). Two more school marks are in reach, as Johnston's 2015 average of 47.2 yards per punt is narrowly ahead of the record (47.1) Tom Tupa established in 1984. From 2005-08, A.J. Trapasso landed 78 punts inside the 20. Johnston is 11 short of that school record -- and in one less year of playing time.

Remember: Johnston would have never come to Ohio State -- and may have never played college football -- had current Florida punter Johnny Townsend not left the Buckeyes at the altar on Signing Day 2013. (Townsend is no slouch, either -- he's averaging 44.7 yards per punt in 2015.)

However, what appeared to be a Signing Day gut-punch in February 2013 has turned out to be a wonderful twist of fate for Ohio State, as Johnston has evolved into the complete package as a punter. He can play the long game. He can air-drop a punt inside the 20 at will. He keeps the ball out of the end zone. And most importantly, the stats indicate that Johnston is a major reason why opposing offenses consistently face a long field against Ohio State's defense.

The offense may get all the attention, and the defensive line may have the biggest stars, but a major reason for Ohio State's success has been their superior punting, and that shouldn't change this season.