If you've watched college football the last couple of seasons, you may have noticed a change in the punting game. More and more punters each year are adapting the rugby style, something that former Utah punter Tom Hackett made look easy throughout his career with the Utes.
The two-time defending Ray Guy Award winner routinely pinned his opponents deep in their own territory. But as the saying goes, it's out with the old and in with the new, and the Utah punting unit will literally do so by welcoming in new Aussie punter Mitch Wishnowsky.
Growing up in Australia, like Hackett, Wishnowsky has always had a love for kicking.
"A lot of people in Australia punt, you grow up with it," he said.
It was part of the way of life down there, and even though he stands with a stocky 6' 4", 225-pound frame, punting is his love and his specialty.
"It's a lot more complicated and in depth if you want to be a receiver or something," he said. "I love punting, I love just going out there and hitting a good ball. It's always just been punting, to be honest."
However, punting in Australia is different than punting here in America, evident by some of the trick plays that Utah dialed up when Hackett was at the helm. To help with his transition to American football, Wishnowsky joined a program called Prokick Australia, the same program Hackett used during his own journey to the States.
At Prokick Australia, which was formed back in 2006, they work on training and assessing young Australians in the art of kicking and punting, according to their official website. Coaches Nathan Chapman, "Chappie" to Wishnowsky, and John Smith help participants take that rugby-style punting that they grow up with and adapt to learn the tricks of the trade that is American football.
Courtesy of the University of Utah
And their record speaks for itself; the last three Ray Guy Award winners, given to college football's best punter, have all been products of the program. Hackett won it twice.
Chapman helped Wishnowsky settle at Santa Barbara Community College, where he was able to work on his punting before making the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision. His numbers weren't eye-popping, but enough to catch the eye of head coach Kyle Whittingham. Wishnowsky averaged nearly 40 yards per punt, including a long of 77 yards, while almost half of his punts with the Vaqueros landed inside the opposing team's 20-yard line.
Following his time in California, the marriage between Wishnowsky and Utah Football was seamless and drama-free. Simply put, the new Ute punter just felt good about the program here in Salt Lake City.
"Chappie had been here, spoke of the quality of the coaching and (Whittingham). He loved Utah, and Tom (Hackett) had nothing bad to say," Wishnowsky said. "From there, everything came together. The program was good, (Whittingham) was a good bloke, Tom loved it, Chappie loved it. No one speaks any bad words of it, so I'll come."
Time will tell if Wishnowsky can continue the punting dominance that has existed at Utah the last two seasons, but if spring camp is any indication, the Utes are in good hands. The new Aussie punter can be seen sending one high-sailing punt after another during Utah's spring practices, so you can't blame fans for being excited about the prospect.
But according to Wishnowsky, it's not about upholding a certain name. He doesn't feel any outside pressure, as he already puts enough on himself as a player. He also doesn't want to be the next Tom Hackett.
Wishnowsky, who like his predecessor admittedly doesn't enjoy running long distances, just wants to be Wishnowsky.
"I'm just gonna go out and try to do my best. I'm not gonna try to be the next (Hackett)," he said. "He proved to be the full package. I'm not too sure (what I bring), but I think I can just perform as well as he did."
Griffin Adams is SI's campus correspondent for the University of Utah. Follow him on Twitter.