Signed from the land down under, punter Luke Larsen is one of the many new players on ECU’s football roster attempting to carve out a role during preseason camp. Of the recruits brought in during the 2020 class, Lursen is perhaps the most unique, as he will be 28 years old when the Pirates take the field in September.

After graduating from St. Bernard’s College, the Keilor Park, Victoria native took part in Prokick Australia where he worked himself onto the radar of Division I schools in the states. Pirates head coach Mike Houston utilized his contacts in Australia and extended Larsen a scholarship, which he took.

Prokick Australia “was developed in 2007 to help guide and transition Australian athletes to perform at the College/NFL level, and with our natural Aussie instinct of kicking a ball, we have focused on that area,” according to their website.

The 28-year-old freshman is set to backup senior Jonn Young for punting duties, but was pushing him for a starting job before a setback knocked him off track. Nevertheless, in the sample size Houston has seen from Larsen in-person, he can tell the talent is clearly there.

“He did have a little setback medically so looking forward to getting him back and competing,” Houston said on Tuesday. “He’s got a strong leg. He’s having to get used to the timing, having to get it off a little bit quicker.”

The rules differ slightly from Australian football to the American game, something Prokick attempts to assist players with through their program. Still, punting under the conditions that American punters find themselves in during games — with defenders flying toward them — requires a reworking of a familiar skill set for someone like Larsen.

“It’s easy to sit out there and punt with no rush,” Houston said. “All of a sudden those live bullets start coming at you, you figure out ‘hey I better get this thing off a little bit quicker.’ We put him on a stopwatch.”

While his development was interrupted by his medical issue, Larsen was brought in, not only to be Young’s replacement once his eligibility is exhausted, but to push the veteran to become the best version of himself.

Despite battling injuries at times last season, Young was a mid-year addition to the Ray Guy Award Watch List as one of the nation’s top punters. Across all 12 games in 2019, Young booted 60 punts and averaged 40.6 yards per punt, and turned in a career-best 62-yarder against Tulsa in the season’s finale.

In two years at ECU, Young has eclipsed better than a 40 yard per punt average and amassed 12 kicks of 50-plus yards in length. Twenty-eight times Young has been able to pin opponents inside their own 20-yard line with punts, a feat he accomplished 15 times in 2019.

With some outside competition in the room now, Houston has seen some growth in Young this preseason and believes the addition of the Australian will bring out the best in both punters.

“The competition has improved Jonn,” Houston said. “He is operating much faster, I think his leg strength has improved. I think having Luke has helped Jonn.”

Larsen represents the third Australian-born punter to ever be on ECU’s roster, and the first since 2011. The Ray Guy Award has been won by punters from Australia in six of the last seven years, according to ECUPirates.com.

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