Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Brian Buschini and The Big Ten’s Art of Punting

September 28, 2022

Punting is an art. The artificial turf is a blank canvas and Brian Buschini creates when he catches the snap. It’s a portrait that can’t be properly received with a statistical glance because stats can be misleading.

Take Tory Taylor at Iowa, example. Buschini explained that Taylor won’t rank near the top in national statistics because he works with short fields. That means less chances for deep punts but more chances for downs inside the 20.

“So you have to dive deep to figure out who’s really good at punting,” Buschini said.

And the Big Ten is good at punting. It’s gained national attention for it, highlighted by the Iowa and Rutgers game last Saturday. Through four games Buschini has proven he belongs in the conference.

Nebraska is tied with Indiana for the second-most punts in the Big Ten with 19. (Surprise, Iowa is in the lead with 29.) Six schools average more than 45 yards per punt, a different six schools have recorded punts of 60 yards or more.

So far Buschini is sixth in the Big Ten with a 45.2 yard average on 18 punts. That’s with nine fair catches and one touchback. He’s landed six inside the 20 and three of his punts have surpassed 50 yards. Just 4 yards separate his gross and net averages.

“It’s pretty special, I feel pretty lucky to be part of this conference,” Buschini said. “I have a lot of affinity for the Iowa punter and the one at Michigan State (Bryce Baringer), I think he’s really good as well.”

He considers there to be a game inside each game. A micro-contest filled with hat tips and oneupmanship among the fraternal order of field flippers. Most punters build relationships working with the same specialist coaches in the offseason, all while improving their net, direction and airtime.

One statistic punters don’t get much acclaim for is a tackle. But Buschini tallied a solo stop after mishitting a ball against No. 6 Oklahoma. It was his first since the Idaho game last year when he needed to make the tackle on a kickoff for Montana.

Make no mistake, the black belt in taekwando doesn’t mind the contact.

“I don’t have a problem hitting people,” he said. “I actually kind of enjoy it, believe it or not.”

But the tackle came at a price. Buschini sprained his ankle. That injury forced him to work on his one-step technique. He returned to punt later in the Oklahoma game and went off one foot because he lacked the explosiveness in his plant foot. He wasn’t happy with that one. So he’s polished his technique ahead of the Indiana clash on Saturday night.

“It’s really not a huge change,” he said. “I did a drill called the one-step drill with my kicking coaches. I do that all the time so it’s really not that different.”

A bigger difference was the recent shift in coaching. Bill Busch is no longer special teams coordinator after moving to defense. Joey Connors earned the promotion to replace Busch. Buschini said there isn’t a lot of scheme changes that come with the move. New personnel, young players hungry to make a difference, might be added. He complimented the team’s depth on special teams and trusted coaches to make the right moves.

“He’s really energetic but he’s super positive,” the sophomore said of Connors. “He’s not going to drag you down super hard if you have a mistake.”

That’s important because mistakes happen. Errant kicks off the foot, bad snap handling happens. So does punting into the backside of a teammate like Miami Dolphins punter Thomas Morstead did on Sunday. Buschini saw the play and pointed out it wasn’t Morstead’s fault.

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