We’ve spent most of our time talking about how improved the UCLA Football offense has been and how leaky the defense has been. Football isn’t just a two phase game though. The third phase, special teams, has been up and down but no one is complaining about the punting game.
Special teams isn’t a sexy topic. Pass rushers, stud inside linebackers and safeties who can roam sideline to sideline are the celebrities of a defense. Your punter? He doesn’t usually even get his named called unless he’s making a mistake or gets the rare chance for a fake. Even then we usually only end up noting how bad of a decision the fake was. The UCLA Football defense has been lucky though. They’ve got a guy who doesn’t make big mistakes just big punts.
Stefan Flintoft isn’t even supposed to be the starter. In fact he wasn’t even a scholarship player a week ago. The Bruins recruited Austin Kent to come in and take over the proud UCLA Football punter tradition. The Bruins have fielded some very good punters in the last ten years. The gold standard as of late had been Jeff Locke who is currently the punter for the Detroit Lions.
When he left the Bruins as a senior it seemed only natural that Kent would take over. After all he was highly rated, as far as being a punter goes, and brought a big leg into the equation. Still, consistency hasn’t been easy to come by.
Enter walk-on punter Stefan Flintoft. Not a name most would recognize and not a guy many thought would see the field in any great capacity. Nevertheless he’s been a revelation for the Bruins this season and has given the defense a fighting chance with all of the punts he’s been able to pin inside the 20 yard line.
Against Texas A&M and Memphis Flintoft was instrumental in flipping the field. Even if the defense ended up giving up scoring drives at least they didn’t come as the result of poor kicks.
The defense has plenty of things to figure out especially as they move into the meat of their conference schedule. They’re going to need a guy like Fintoft who is averaging almost 41 yards per punt. His hangtime has also been a major factor in coverage. He doesn’t have a huge leg but his placement and mechanics allow him to strike the ball in such a way that he maximizes his physical gifts.
He can also flip the field for the Bruins as evidenced by his season long 63 yard punt against the Aggies to kick off the season. That punt is tied for the 12th longest this season. Here’s the ironic part. Flintoft is having a strong season but in an ideal world you wouldn’t hope to punt once. Coaches would sell their souls have an offense that scored on every possession.
When the Bruins have needed Flintoft he’s been money. He hasn’t gotten the best of help from his coverage units but when we look at his direct contributions to the team you can be pleased. This UCLA Football team has more weapons than meet the eye.