SALT LAKE CITY — Mitch Wishnowsky’s first season with the Utah Utes was, to say the least, a smashing success.
The punter from Western Australia was a unanimous consensus All-American and the Ray Guy Award winner. He led the nation in net punting (44.63 yards), punts of 50 yards and greater (30) and punts inside the 10-yard line (17).
Numerous other high rankings and accolades accompanied Wishnowsky’s initial campaign in major college football.
Now it’s time for the encore.
“I believe I can get better — for sure,” Wishnowsky said. “But I’m just going to go out and take each punt on its own, one at a time.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, though, has even bigger expectations for Wishnowsky.
“Win another Ray Guy — go back-to-back. That would be nice,” he said with a smile. “That’s a stretch, but he is so valuable to our team. He’s a leader.”
So much so, in fact, that Whittingham puts Wishnowsky in the same category as former Utah stars like Andy Phillips, Tom Hackett and Louie Sakoda.
“Once in a while you get a kicker or a punter, as the case may be, that has that toughness and that leadership quality and that’s Mitch,” Whittingham said.
Wishnowsky’s role in that regard has expanded among the specialists. Phillips and long-time snapper Chase Dominguez have graduated, leaving the 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior as the most experienced guy in the mix.
“He is the vet of the specialists. He’s the leader of that group without a doubt,” Whittingham said. “He’s on the leadership council, voted by his peers, and he has been a huge positive for us ever since he set foot on campus.”
New kickers Chayden Johnston and Matt Gay are appreciative of Wishnowsky’s leadership.
“Definitely. He’s the guy that leads us,” Gay said. “He’s the guy that kind of takes us new guys under the wing.”
Gay added that Wishnowsky shows everyone the ropes and is a great guy.
“I would say that Mitch is a leader on the team, not just the specialists group. Mitch is a leader, someone to look up to,” Johnston said. “He’s a little bit older, has…