By TOM LEA
MADISON – Trying to replace the departed Brad Nortman — a sixth round pick in the 2012 draft and recently named starting punter — is not going to be an easy task for sophomore Drew Meyer.
But it’s one he’s taking head on. And in doing so, he’s impressed his head coach to the point that Bret Bielema said he’s made some of the biggest gains of anybody currently on the UW roster.
“If there’s one guy, to be quite honest, on our entire roster who has improved from spring to where he is going into Saturday,” Bielema said. “It would be Drew Meyer. Just the consistency, the way he’s hitting the ball and the operation time he’s hitting it with.
“To know that he has the potential to be a four-year guy is pretty special.”
The Badgers have been pretty spoiled at the punter position each of the past eight seasons. During that time frame, only two punters have graced the Badgers lineup — Ken DeBauche and Nortman.
They are both punters that were either drafted (Nortman) or received extensive looks in NFL training camps, a theme that suggests their value to the Badgers was nothing but top notch.
That’s something Meyer has to follow. Though it’s not easy — or enviable for that matter — it’s still an opportunity. And it’s one the freshman is taking advantage of.
“I’ve been very, very impressed with him,” Bielema said.
In addition to Meyer’s improvement, it’s become apparent the Badgers have something in backup Stephen Salata, maybe not as a traditional punter, but as one that provides a rugby style kick that could prove beneficial.
“He’s come in and done some nice stuff for us in the rugby kicking game,” Bielema said. “Different things that would bring a different element to our bag of tricks. It’s just something that I’m excited to see.
“I might not be as excited when we go to our post game press conference, but going into it I’m very excited to see exactly where we’re at.”