Kyle Sweet never really set out to be a punter, he always just sort of fallen into that role. Meanwhile, on punt return, the Cougars are hoping to get some production out of a couple of freshmen.
LEWISTON, Idaho — Kyle Sweet was messing around after practice last fall just kicking some footballs, when Washington State special teams coach Eric Mele approached with a question.
“Hey, I heard a story about how one of you Santa Margarita boys punted in high school. Was that you or River?” Mele asked, referring to former Cougars River Cracraft, who, like Sweet, came to WSU from Santa Margarita High School.
“That was me, coach,” Sweet said.
“OK, let’s see you punt one,” Mele suggested.
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Sweet rolled out rugby-style and booted a 50-yard punt.
That’s how Sweet, WSU’s slot receiver, became the Cougars’ punter.
“That was it. It was kinda happenstance and the rest is history for him,” Mele said.
It’s a role Sweet has never really trained for, even in high school, when he played quarterback and receiver.
In high school, “they just asked me to do it,” said Sweet, a junior. “I played (youth) soccer and then I played soccer my eighth grade year with all my buddies just to have fun, and I actually punted in eighth grade too.”
Punting was just something extra he did to help his team. So Sweet didn’t even bother to mention this bonus skill to the Cougars when they were recruiting him.
But Mele was beyond excited by Sweet’s secret punting skills. The coach had been looking for a rugby punter to add to WSU’s special teams repertoire. And until Sweet demonstrated his rugby punting skills on that fateful day last year, the Cougars had been holding tryouts for rugby style punters.
Rugby punting adds a different dimension to special teams, Mele says. Rugby punts are harder to catch because of the way the ball spins, and having a rugby style punter who can read the rush and get the ball off at a moment’s notice keeps the opposing punt return team off balance.
Sweet punted 32 times last season, averaging 38.2 yards per punt. He dropped nine punts inside the 20-yard line, and booted a season-long 58-yarder in the Cougars win over Arizona.
He was so effective last year that the Cougars only called on Zach Charme, their more traditional-style punter, eight times. With Sweet entrenched as the team’s punter, Charme transferred to Idaho this…