Name: Hunter Niswander
High School: Woodridge High School (Peninsula, Ohio)
Other interest: Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford, Michigan State, others.
What he’s saying
“I feel honored to be a Wildcat,” he said. “I’m very excited to get on campus and get started.”
The Scouting Report
From ESPN Recruiting Nation:
“Hunter is a big talented kicker/punter. He had one of the most impressive drill work sessions at the Kohl’s Eastern Showcase Camp in May 2011. Hunter has a smooth stroke on his FG. He opens up his foot well and hits a clean ball. He has shown an ability to focus in competitions. Hunter has improved as a punter and has the frame of a punter. His leg speed has also improved over the last 12 months. He has done well for his high school team over his career.”
What’s the hype?
The third phase of the game, special teams, is the one most often overlooked by casual fans. High-powered offenses are all the rage. Big, fast, aggressive defenders are what differentiates the haves from the have-nots. But it’s the field goal kickers and punters that tie everything together. They finish stalled-out drives with three-points or field position-shifting airbombs, initiate the opponent’s offensive sequence, and are burdened with some of the most pressure-filled moments in the game. Contrary to popular macho-football culture, being a kicker or punter is hard. It really is.
It’s a little less hard for Niswander, who will join the Wildcats this season as one of the top kicking and punting prospects in the country. He earned a full-time scholarship from Northwestern, a rarity even among powerhouse programs. Watch the video above and you’ll quickly realize why Niswander was so highly regarded as a high school prospect out of Peninsula, Ohio. His size – 6-foot-5, 210 pounds – appears better suited for outside linebacker or tight end, but the physical characteristics are not lost in the innocuousness of the position. That height and sturdy frame is precisely why he’s able to generate enough power to launch 40-yard punts and 50-yard field goals on the regular.
What about next year?
Two seniors have the punting (Brandon Williams) and placekicking (Jeff Budzien) spots on lockdown, so don’t expect Niswander to join the first team next season. Budzien was a revelation for the Wildcats in 2012; he made 20 field goals, missing just one, all 50 PAT attempts and became the first Northwestern kicker to be named All Big Ten since Brian Gowins (1997). Williams also stepped up his game in 2012, recording career highs 50+ yard boots as well as the number of punts dropped inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, and his best work – a 64-yard parabolic marvel against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl – came at the end of the season. Niswander’s services can wait, thank you very much.
What about the future?
The door is wide open for Niswander to step to the forefront of Northwestern’s kicking and punting services next season. Once Budzien and Williams graduate, Niswander may be forced to make a choice; or maybe his immense dual-threat capabilities will give coaches enough confidence to use Niswander at both field goal kicker and punter (and maybe even kickoff specialist). We know Niswander will be starting in a year – that’s almost a guarantee. It’s his position (and whether he will or wont play two simultaneously) that is still yet to be resolved.