IOWA CITY — Purdue’s best defensive weapon has played 49 snaps this season.
Senior punter Cody Webster leads the Big Ten in punting average at 44.8 yards a boot. But he’s worth more than his average details. Webster has dropped 18 of his league-leading 49 punts inside his opponent’s 20-yard line. So far none of them have rolled into the end zone.
That’s right, no touchbacks.
“It’s just all about knowing where you are on the field,” Webster said. “Obviously if you’re around midfield or you’re plus-or-minus the 40, you can’t swing away. There’s some finesse that goes along with punting. Some of the best punters aren’t necessarily the strongest. They just know how to place the ball and how to control the ball. I think that’s what I really value in myself.”
Last week in a 56-0 loss to Ohio State, Webster did his part. He averaged 49.5 yards on his eight punts. His first effort was a 15-yard shank that gave the Buckeyes a short field. But over his final seven punts, he averaged 54.4 yards and three landed inside the 20.
Ohio State returned only two of Webster’s punts for a total of minus-1 yard.
“Cody has really been a staple for us this whole season,” Purdue Coach Darrell Hazell said. “He had the one bad punt, but after that I thought he kicked the ball extremely well. He’s getting great punt location as well as hang time and has allowed our guys to cover the punts bright spot for us this 2013 year.”
The Buckeyes’ average field position was the 16-yard line in the second half. Webster’s punting alone was worth an two first downs per possession to Purdue’s defense.
“Not a lot of people really appreciate a good punter,” Webster said. “It’s hard to find somebody that does and it’s hard to find somebody that really understands punting. I know one thing for me, one thing that I’ve liked to do, is whoever I talk to about punting is try to educate them about punting. Just so there’s not that stereotype that punters aren’t part of the team because really they are and sometimes they can be your best player.”
Like many specialists, Webster (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) played multiple positions growing up in Harrisburg, Pa. He attended football camps hoping to become a scholarship wide receiver but as a junior he was offered to punt at Purdue. He immediately focused on punting and has become one of the nation’s best. Webster ranks 10th nationally in punting average, despite kicking in swirling winds in most games.
The statistics elevate Webster into NFL consideration next spring. Ourlads Scouting Services ranked Webster as the 10th-best punting prospect, and Webster has spoken with Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee about making the transition from college to the pros. Webster plans to sign with an agent after the season.“I’ve got a few narrowed down,” he said. “After the season I’m going to get with them and talk about my future and see where it goes.”