By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Andrew Ritter rushed headlong into a redshirt season and saw it as an opportunity. Tyler Campbell, though, saw it as a risk.
A deal was struck before it was decided that Campbell, two years removed from leading the NCAA in punting average, would do the same thing.
“I got by with it. That’s all I can say. I could have been raked over the coals for that and probably was by some people,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
Walk-on Nathan Noble got the first chance to replace Ritter as the kickoff specialist. Eventually the job went to senior placement kicker Bryson Rose.
At punter, walk-on Jim Broadway caught Freeze’s eye, and the plan to save two experienced upperclassman specialists was put in motion.
But for Campbell, there was no fall-back plan.
I felt kind of risky doing it,” Campbell said. “We agreed on two games, but I dressed out for the Texas game just in case, because that was obviously the biggest stage. After that he came to me and said, ‘His numbers are good enough. You’re done for the year.’ I was real excited to hear that.”
Freeze wanted to see averages of 36 yards net and 40 yards overall from Broadway.
Broadway had some big punts but also some hiccups even after the deadline. Through it all the Rebels’ net-punting average finished the regular season at 36.4 yards, 13th in the SEC. Broadway averaged 41.2 yards per punt, 11th in the league.
Campbell was his biggest fan, tutoring him through fall camp to win the job Campbell had had for the three previous seasons.
Campbell led the nation in 2010 with a 46.37-yard average. In 2011 he was used more in the Rugby-punt mode and improved his net-punting average.
While Campbell has excelled, Ritter has been able to do only half the job he signed on for, watching Josh Shene and Rose handle the placement kicks throughout his career.
In the summer Ritter worked with noted kicking coach Gary Zauner and learned fundamentals he hopes will improve his accuracy. He’ll get a chance to kick field goals next year.
“That’s the main reason I wanted to (redshirt),” Ritter said.
Freeze says Ritter’s accuracy has improved. Ritter feels comfortable kicking as far as 60 yards out, and he expects to be a touchback weapon as he resumes kickoffs next season.
Sitting out a year could also put Ritter in position to make an NFL roster.
“If you want to go to the NFL, you’ve got to be able to do both. I see this as an opportunity to show that I can do both. If that’s how it works out, that’s great. My main focus is next year and helping out this team,” he said.