Apr 25, 2011, 12:25 AM EDT
The ninth of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. For more, check the previews of Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Theo Riddick, Steve Filer, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Tyler Eifert.
Turk was brought into South Bend as the blue-chip answer to Notre Dame’s punting woes. When he wasn’t out bench-pressing everybody in his recruiting class, he was launching punts into orbit. Midway through his freshman season he took over the starting punting job and since then… Well, he’s been okay.
Turk’s career average in 19 games is a shade over 38 yards a kick. We could say he’s done a good job of holding returns to a minimum or pinning offenses inside their own twenty yard line, but when you’re kicking the ball that short you usually limit your opponents chance to return punts.
With rocket-legged Kyle Brindza coming to campus and competing at both kicker and punter, Turk’s officially been put on notice that the results special teams coach Mike Elston sees during practice need to translate to the games.
Turk started every game last season for the Irish, but only had four games where he averaged over 40 yards a kick. He got off the occasional rocket, but also had his fair share of low rolling kicks, putting the Irish defense in some tough places and struggling to flip the field.
The high-water mark for Turk’s 2010 season was his outing against Pittsburgh, where he averaged 46.6 yards on five punts, with three of them being downed inside the Panthers’ twenty.
“We flipped the field position today,” Kelly said after the 23-17 victory. “Ben Turk was outstanding punting the football. They’re dangerous, one of the best ST teams we’ll see this year was Pittsburgh.”
Turk had a season-long 56 yard kick against Tulsa and six punts that went over 50 yards.
100 word preview for Ben Turk in 2011:
One way to help the Irish be a better football team is to get a good season out of punter Ben Turk, something the Irish haven’t gotten in Turk’s two years in South Bend. Practice field exploits haven’t translated into game day results, and Turk’s 2010 was up-and-down, with the strong-legged punter struggling to get hang time and distance on his kicks. Turk has the leg and the ability needed, but with newcomer Kyle Brindza on campus, he’ll need to get in the swing of things quickly, or his grasp on the starting job will quickly come to an end.
Importance in 2011:
The Irish were 101st in punting last season, and they’ll need to get a better year out of someone — Turk or not — to be an efficient football team.