College football recruiters can be so skittish about giving full scholarships to punters and long snappers that it's almost as if they are parting with a percentage of their salaries. It's hit-or-miss in projecting how high-school players at those positions will perform on the next level when the pressure is on, and many are given only a chance to walk on.
College football recruiters can be so skittish about giving full scholarships to punters and long snappers that it's almost as if they are parting with a percentage of their salaries.
It's hit-or-miss in projecting how high-school players at those positions will perform on the next level when the pressure is on, and many are given only a chance to walk on. Punter J. Schroeder of St. Charles and long snapper Wyatt Pfeifer of Buckeye Valley have rewarded Western Michigan tenfold for showing faith in them.
In turn, both say they wouldn't be returning home as established players had the people standing behind them in their formative years not shown the same faith. The Broncos play Ohio State on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
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Former Buckeyes kicker and punter Tim Williams has been the guiding light for Schroeder.
"I was introduced to Tim my freshman year of high school, and he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes," said Schroeder, a senior from Hilliard. "I talk to Tim every couple of weeks - he lives in the Cincinnati area - and we exchange text messages."
Williams tries to watch as many Western Michigan games as possible to examine Schroeder's form.
"Tim will see some things and he'll say: You need to adjust this or try this," Schroeder said. "I try to describe how I'm feeling. We work back and forth."
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Schroeder was voted third-team all-Mid-American Conference last season after averaging 42.8 yards per punt. Twenty kicks landed inside the 20-yard line, and 10 were fair-caught. In 2013, he averaged 39.7 yards per punt, with 17 being downed inside the 20 and 21 being fair-caught.
This season, he's averaging 39.3 yards on nine kicks. Three have been fair-caught and four have landed inside the 20.
Schroeder - his parents, Jeff and Mary, wanted a unique first name; hence J. - credits Pfeifer and the nine others on the special-teams unit for his solid numbers.
"There are 10 other guys out there, and a lot of it starts up front," he said. "The coaches have put a lot of playmakers around me so I can do my job, which is to set up the defense."
Pfeifer, a sophomore, wanted to give up long snapping after the seventh grade, but his father talked him out of it. That was wise because some scouting services had Pfeifer ranked as the third-best long snapper in the country during his senior year of high school.
Pfeifer was invited to the Western Michigan camp the summer before his high-school senior year. He never expected to return home with a scholarship offer.
"That was an interesting day," he said. "I was called into the office, and I thought they would say, 'Good job, but we don't want you.' But Coach (P.J.) Fleck said they were offering a scholarship. He said if I didn't accept right then and there, another guy down the hall would be offered. I went with my heart and said yes. Coach Fleck told the 2015 recruits that story, saying it was my life decision."
Schroeder and Pfeifer have a special bond because one mistake can result in disaster. Pfeifer played in all 12 games last season, but Schroeder primarily worked with another long snapper his first three seasons.
"I have bonded with J. - we're close," Pfeifer said. "We communicate well. I knew I had big shoes to fill. I kept my mouth shut the first year and did what I had to do."