Under halfway! Anyway, Brandon Williams.
It's sorta good to have a consistent, good punter for four seasons, and it's a luxury Northwestern's been able to have. We don't really talk about it often, but here's our time to do so. Especially since historically, Northwestern's punting game hasn't been so good, and now that Brandon Williams is here, it kinda is. Let's appreciate B-Will!
Brandon hails from Nappanee, Indiana, which is to say: neatly smack dab in the fields of nothingness between the relative metropolises of South Bend and Ft. Wayne. For NorthWood, he was one of the best punters, if not the best punters in the state, earning all-state honors at the 3A level from the AP, Indiana Football Coaches Association, and Indiana Football Digest both his junior and senior years. He also took kicks, and played a smattering of QB and wide receiver, ran the 400 meters, did the long jump and played basketball. These things happen in small towns. However, I don't believe he was recruited -- that said, it's super hard to search for a player named "Brandon Williams" with any effectiveness, since there are 400 billion of them.
Despite walking on, Williams quickly began to earn playing time. After redshirting, he took over full-time punting duties as in 2010, in order to give Stefan Demos relief from handling every kicking duty Northwestern had. And lo and behold, he was damn good. He didn't boot the hell out of the ball, but his kicks weren't returnable, with opponents managing just 3.31 yards per return, the third-best figure in the nation. That gave him a net average of 38.0 yards, 28th in the nation and second in the Big Ten, a year after NU had been dead last in the conference in both categories. (In fact, Williams' net average of 38 yards was significantly longer than Demos' total average of 35.0 yards. Demos was a good kicker and a good punter when he had individual duties, but could not do both.) He'd have 21 kicks inside the 20 and just four touchbacks.
His sophomore year would see a dropoff as he'd allow a punt returned for a touchdown on a less-than-stellar kick to Keshawn Martin, wrecking his net average. He'd kick nine touchbacks, and ended up ninth in net. But last year saw a relative return to his freshman form: his 39.9 yards per punt and 37.6 net yards were .1 yards and .4 yards off of the results from his first year. He only had two touchbacks, once again allowed very little in the way of returns, just 4.86 yards, and as a result, NU was third in the conference in net punting.
Oh, he's also NU's holder.
You know, I could've just gone back and found the longest punt of Brandon Williams' career -- a 77-yarder against Minnesota in 2011, flying the return man's head and rolling all the way to the four -- but homie don't play that, okay?
Northwestern couldn't figure out how to get into the end zone against Boston College, with a lot of drives stalling, but had dinged through five field goals -- nice holding, Brandon! -- for a treacherous 15-13 lead late. Another NU drive stalled with about three minutes to go to the game, with NU pushed back to the 42-yard line for a fourth-and-17 when Kevin Pierre-Louis sacked Kain Colter.
It was Williams' time to shine. He floated a high arcer that BC's Spiffy Evans chose not to return and gave NU's gunners plenty of time to camp out on the goal line. The ball took the right hop, and C.J. Bryant, playing goalie, knocked the ball down before it could break the plane, setting BC up with the ball on their own 1-yard line with three minutes to get points on the board. With a safety in play and without much space to operate, Chase Rettig threw three incompletions, giving NU the ball back. BC's punt was returned to the 45 by Hunter Bates, and soon, Mike Trumpy was in the end zone, giving NU a 22-13 win. A perfect punt at the right time can do wonders.
Anagram of choice
Discovering the Wildcats' true inner selves through spelling
Brandon Williams, anagrammed, is
Wait, what? How do those letters make nothing?
Relevant musical choice
"You Can't Dance With Me," Cool Brandon One day, about two years ago I was chilling out hanging out with my friend Brandon and he was like "hey, wanna watch me make a rap video?" And I went upstairs with him and watched him sit in front of a green screen and carefully set five Keystone Lights on the table in front of him. He explained he was going to shotgun all of them, because his rapper alter ego Cool Brandon would probably think people would think he was really cool if he shotgunned five beers in a music video. But Brandon is like 6'7, 150 pounds, and I was like, "you can't really even shotgun one beer well," and he was like "yeah, it's gonna be awful, I'm probably going to throw up everywhere" and sure enough, voilà. He's good at rapping though, and makes a bunch of Taylor Swift jokes, so there's stuff here for everybody.
How he can help
In two of his three seasons, there haven't been many better punters in the country at preventing teams from turning punts into big returns, and in those two seasons, NU has been one of the best teams in the conference at turning punts into good field position. There's really not much more you can ask for. He doesn't have a freakish leg like my personal folk hero Brad Wing, but he has a good one. Williams has been really solid at a position that historically hasn't been for the Cats. We should take a moment to appreciate that.
Depth chart projection
He's gonna punt, he's gonna hold. Great to have consistency. It's gonna be less fun to have to figure out who's gonna do this next year, and some random freshman or redshirt freshman or sophomore who's never done it at the level and could be prone to wild inconsistency or could just be plain not good has to take over.