Handling kickoff, punt and field goal duties is nothing new for junior punter and kicker Tyler Wedel.
Wedel was thrust into field goal duties when senior kicker Mathew Sims was not able to play in Saturday’s Akron game due to injury. Sims suffered a leg injury in the Kent State game but gutted it out the rest of the way; he tried to give it a go but was sidelined against the Zips. Wedel was responsible for all kicks against the Zips Saturday.
“For the most part I was really pleased how he kicked the ball,” said head coach Rod Carey. “Obviously, the two blocked field goals, I think he’ll tell you too, they weren’t hit correctly. But put him in that situation where he was doing punting and kickoffs and all of a sudden say, ‘Go do field goals, too,’ it’s one of those things that right now we’re all right with, but we got to work to get that better.”
Wedel, no stranger to versatility, took on all three of those duties at McFarland High School in McFarland, Wis., during his junior and senior seasons. He also played quarterback, defensive back, punt returner and kick returner, but he was named a Wisconsin all-state punter.
Wedel came to NIU but served solely as the Huskies’ kickoff specialist during his first two seasons. With the departure of punter Ryan Neir at the end of last season, Wedel has stepped up and filled the punting duties for NIU. He also serves as the holder on field goals and extra points.
Against Akron, Wedel punted eight times for an average of 41.4 yards. He also had six kickoffs for an average of 61.8 yards, including three touchbacks and one kickoff that went out of bounds.
With Wedel kicking, redshirt freshman wide receiver Matt Williams served as the placeholder. Wedel went three-of-three on extra point attempts and two-of-four on field goal attempts. He hit field goals from 42 yards and 21 yards, but had field goals blocked from 46 yards and 40 yards.
“The first [block] was an absolute terrible kick,” Wedel said. “The second one, when I hit it originally it felt good. I’m going to have to look at it on film. I’m going to assume I hit it more like a kickoff so it was more like a line drive. Regardless of whether it hit the sweet spot of the ball, it’s still low, and it obviously got blocked. I’ve got to look at the film and see what happened on that one.”
Wedel has done even more than just kick the ball this season. In his first start as NIU’s punter against Iowa on Aug. 31, Wedel channeled his inner runningback and came up big with a third-quarter fake punt, taking a pitch from tight end Desroy Maxwell, rushing for 42 yards.
“I was just excited,” Wedel said in a news conference following the Iowa game. “Not nervous one bit, I was making sure [Maxwell] made the right call because we had to motion the guy over. I was excited, I was jacked to run it; I wasn’t nervous. I knew [Maxwell] was going to give me a great pitch, which he did, and everyone blocked phenomenally...”
When it comes to kicking, each kick requires a slight tick in technique. For Wedel, the cure is to practice more.
“It’s a little more difficult [to handle all kicking duties] in college,” Wedel said. “I was fortunate to handle it in high school. I haven’t been doing it much in college so far in my career, but it takes a little bit of a toll on your leg.
“And technique-wise … it’s a little bit different. Like a kickoff, field goal and punt, there’s something different every single time, like with each kick. So you need to kind of mentally prepare yourself for the different circumstances, like whether it’s a field goal vs. a kickoff, like your foot’s in a different place.
“It’s one of those things I got to practice better and get more used to it, obviously, because normally I’ve just been doing punting and kickoffs, whereas now I was doing field goals today. It’s a practice thing. Just go out and practice it more and it’ll come back.”