There’s competition at ECU in the punting department. Almost solely Jonn Young’s responsibility since he transferred from West Virginia ahead of the 2018 season, the Pirates brought in Australian Luke […]
There’s competition at ECU in the punting department. Almost solely Jonn Young’s responsibility since he transferred from West Virginia ahead of the 2018 season, the Pirates brought in Australian Luke Larsen to compete for the job during preseason camp.
With strong camps from the pair of them, Mike Houston placed an “OR” next to Young’s name on ECU’s first depth of the season ahead of last weekend’s game against UCF. Young, who punted a combined 131 times over the last two seasons, strolled out and booted away the Pirates’ first punt of the game on Saturday, but saw Larsen account for two of the five total punts on the afternoon.
“I think both of them have to be prepared to punt,” Houston said prior to ECU’s first game of the season. “You’ll probably see both of them punt this year. I think the competition has been very good and I think they’ve been good for each other in that they’ve pushed each other. Jonn has had a solid preseason, so has Luke. I would say that competition is very neck-and-neck right now.”
COVID-19 has forced the Pirates to stockpile depth at every position on the roster. Testing three times per week and the contract tracing that comes along with that means ECU may be down a frontline player at a moments notice. Having a capable back-up is more important than ever because of that, and both Young and Larsen have showcased their ability to the Pirates’ coaching staff.
On Saturday, Young edged Larsen in production, averaging 43.7 yards per punt with a long of 49 and two kicks placed within the 20-yard line. Larsen registered his long at 47 yards and averaged 41 yards on his pair of punts in ECU’s loss.
All total, the duo averaged 42.6 yards on their punts, netting 41.4 to place them within the top-15 nationally after one game.
With Young entering his senior season, Larsen was brought in to push the veteran, but also gain experience playing American rules football. After the NCAA’s ruling on eligibility, Young will have an additional year with the Pirates in 2021 if he chooses to take it, meaning we could see continued competition at punter.
Where there does not seem to be any competition right now is at kicker. Over the last handful of seasons, Jake Verity has elevated himself into discussions of being one of the best placekickers in the country. Ahead of last weekend’s action, the senior entered competition as the active leader in field goals made with 60 and fourth in the FBS in field goals made per game (1.58).
In 2019, Verity broke ECU’s single-season record for most field goals made with a 24-for-29 effort. He also finished fourth for most points scored by an ECU player in a single season at 105.
Already, Verity is the ECU program leader in career field goals made and stands second in the accuracy department at 77.9%. From 2017-2019, the veteran connected on field goals north of 50 yards and established a career-long of 52 yards during the 2017 campaign.
“He thinks he can hit anything 60 yards and in, and he probably can,” Houston said. “He’s hit a 60-yarder in practice before. It’d depend on weather conditions and the game situation, but certainly we’re very fortunate to have a talented kicker. I think he’s one of the best in the country.”
While Verity did not get an opportunity to kick a field goal on Saturday against UCF, he did convert on all four of his PAT chances. That makes him 52 for his last 52 on point-afters and 104-for-106 on them in his career.
More importantly, however, those four points means Verity is only 17 points away from surpassing Warren Harvey for most career points scored as a Pirate. Harvey, who connected on 168 PAT’s and 44 field goals from 2012-2014, racked up 300 points during his tenure in Greenville, while Verity has recorded 284 points on 104 PAT’s and 60 field goals.
Verity currently stands fourth on the career points scored list, and is three points away from tying Kevin Miller for third and four off Ben Hartman tying for second.