Dec. 21, 2009
by Matt Winkeljohn, Managing Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
ATLANTA – Chandler Anderson may not be the world’s most interesting man, and he doesn’t always punt, but when he does, he punts for Georgia Tech.
That’s made him the invisible man of late.
The Yellow Jackets have not punted a single time in the past two games, and just four times in the past four. Three times this season, they have not punted in a game, including at Florida State, against Georgia and against Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Prior to this season, the Jackets had punted at least once in every game going back to 2000.
It’s a lonely life, but somebody has to live it.
“Usually when we’re not punting, it’s a sign that the offense is producing,” said the redshirt sophomore from Columbus Shaw High. “I only had about 30 punts this year, but that’s not a bad thing because it signals that the offense is doing a good job.”
Anderson, like all Jackets, has a role in the pre-game routine. When they’re going through their rituals, teammates – particularly Demaryius Thomas – have a habit of walking up and offering, uh, encouragement.
“BayBay says it to me almost every game. I’ve actually been warming up, and he’ll walk up and say, ‘You can just go sit down because you’re not going to have to punt today,’ ” Anderson said with a smile. “Some of the guys tease me. It’s kind of cool, though, because they have a lot of confidence.”
Despite a respectable 40.7-yard punting average, Anderson has not often found himself splashed on highlight shows.
Coach Paul Johnson’s not a fan of punting much anyway. If the Jackets have made their way across midfield, and sometimes even when they haven’t made it that far, he often opts to go for it on fourth down unless the distance is, well, if it’s short enough for Johnson to navigate with a golf ball and a lob wedge, he’s probably going for it.
That’s a testament to three things: Johnson’s baseline M.O., his faith in his offense, and his acknowledgment that Tech’s defense has often struggled to slow anybody (Tech has not forced a punt in the past two games).
For a time, it also was an indictment of Anderson.
Early in the season, Johnson was not pleased with Anderson’s sense of timing. To be specific, he was taking too long to get rid of the ball, and the head coach feared a blocked punt or some other disaster.
So Anderson made adjustments to his steps, and the way he receives the ball. Previously, he would after catching the ball grip it in such a fashion that he had to roll it over in his hands. Now, he catches it, and he’s ready to drop the ball almost instantly because his hands are generally under the ball instead of mostly over it.
“I was taking an extra step, and I was catching the ball with my hands over it,” he said. “When I catch the ball now, I keep my feet in place and catch it with my hands out and under the ball. There’s a lot of little technical stuff that has all helped my get-off time.”
Through all these adjustments, all this idle time, Tech’s punter hasn’t exactly been gone. Invisible is not really the right word. Anderson’s also the Jackets’ holder on PATs and field goals. So he’s getting into games.
It’s an odd pattern by which he enters, though, and as such he’s occasionally teased by more than his teammates. His family gets into the act, too, led by his mother, Angie Cotton.
“They joke a lot because I’m the holder as well,” Anderson said. “They say, ‘Yay, go holder!’ “