Last year, the UMass Minutemen did not have what some may consider a productive year. Winning just one game in a tough MAC division, there was still plenty of talent on the team. As a whole, things look much better this year at nearly every position so let’s take a look at how the Minutemen shape up this year at punter.
Unfortunately, Colter Johnson graduated meaning he is no longer on the team despite being the best punter in the program last year. The sole punter for UMass last year, Johnson held his own thriving in his role. He averaged 37.3 yards per punt on a total of 69 punts. That number was down from his 43.6 yards per punt the year before, but was still respectable nonetheless. It is a shame that Johnson is no longer with the team and he will be missed by many.
This year, the Minutemen have a pair of punters: Logan Laurent and Brian McDonald. Neither of these men have ever played a down of football for the Minutemen as Laurent was a redshirt his freshman year and McDonald who is in grad school transferred over this year.
Laurent who wears number 99 for the Minutemen is entering his first full year with the team with the chance to become the starting punter. In high school Laurent played for Exeter and helped his team win the New Hampshire D-1 state championship in both his junior and senior season. He did not start playing football until junior year as he previously played soccer meaning he never played anything but kicker or punter. As a senior he was more well known for his kicking than his punting and made 41 of 42 extra point attempts as well as 4 out of 5 field goal attempts. According to ESPN Boston 36 of his 54 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks which is very impressive for a high schooler.
The story of Brian McDonald is an interesting one as he has gone through a number of programs over the years. Unlike Laurent, McDonald has experience actually playing real football. The Westwood Mass native began his college career at Sacred Heart as a quarterback but then he transferrred to Fitchburg State. At Fitchburg McDonald proved to be a decent QB starting for Fitchburg during the 2011 season. In 2012 he switched over to punting and averaged 36.8 yards per punt. Most recently he played for University of Minnesota-Morris where he averaged 37.9 yards per punt, 0.6 yards further than Johnson did last season. Luckily for UMass, punting is punting and the division does not really matter. If McDonald can punt a football it does not matter who he is playing against, he will still punt well.
Right now, McDonald seems like the right man for the starting punting job for the UMass Minutemen. With one year of eligibility remaining, the team brought him in as a preferred walk-on which implies they do not trust Laurent at the time being. Sure Laurent is a talented punter but McDonald should have a big year for the team now that he is training in a D-1 program. He could potentially add another yard to that average making him a nice upgrade over Colter Johnson allowing Logan Laurent another year of development so he can potentially be the starting punter in 2015.