Scott Kovanda has a legitimate opportunity to be the third Cardinal punter to be drafted into the NFL at some point over the next three days, as he follows in the footwork of former Ball State standouts Brad Maynard and Reggie Hodges.
“I haven't figured it out,” Cardinal special teams coach Justin Lustig said. “I can't imagine that it is all random. There has to be a reason for it.”
Figuring out why exactly Ball State has emerged as “Punter U” may be perplexing, but analyzing why the NFL would be interested in Kovanda isn't difficult at all.
“I've been pretty fortunate to coach some pretty good punters over the last few years,” Lustig explained, “some all-conference guys and guys that got a lot of accolades. But no one has gotten as much attention as Scott has.”
The NFL scouts have made visiting the Fisher Football Complex in Muncie an almost weekly occurrence over recent seasons, and Kovanda was studied thoroughly be a number of squads over the past year.
Lustig said the common misconception by football fans is to focus on punting average, but that can be misleading.
“The guys that get first team all-conference are the guys that are averaging the furthest punts,” Lustig said. “But that isn't what the NFL guys want. You're going to be punting to (Chicago Bear) Devin Hester and you don't want the kick in the air for three seconds and traveling 60 yards or you're going to out-kick your coverage.”
What appeals to the NFL teams about Kovanda is the fact that he can kick a ball 40 yards, but also keep it in the air for at least four seconds. In addition, Ball State emphasized with Kovanda to be able to specifically place the ball in certain positions, as well as have a quick “operation time,” meaning, that he got rid of the ball quickly (1.3 seconds or less).
“Scott does great,” Lustig said of the critical areas. “It's funny, he didn't make all-conference this year, but he was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award (given to the nation's best punter). The people that really know what they are looking at understand that he was asked to not punt the ball 50 yards every time. He was asked to put it in the corner or put it up high so that you could cover and minimize the return yards.”
Kovanda punted the ball 47 times this past season and only six were returned for at least a one-yard average. Over the course of his career, he punted 229 times for a 41-yard average.
An asset that Kovanda brings to the field that perhaps few outside of the NFL realize, but Lustig was asked about repeatedly, is whether or not the Detroit native could play quarterback.
“The reason being, on an NFL roster, they may carry just three quarterbacks,” Lustig said. “But God forbid, something happens; they would need somebody to finish out the game.”
In the case of the punter, that position usually has a player that isn't frequently on injured reserve (so he would almost always be available), and Lustig explained, the third- or fourth-string wide receiver may get waived in two weeks, the punter will always be there through the season.
So could Kovanda do it?
At 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, he has the size. And as a junior, his 68-yard run against Northern Illinois was the Cardinals' longest of the entire season from scrimmage.
“Yeah, but he got caught at the one-yard line, so we always razz him about that,” Lustig laughed.