Maher ready to hammer away on kickoffs

2012-08-19T14:35:00Z 2012-08-19T14:43:00Z Maher ready to hammer away on kickoffsBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE JournalStar.com
August 19, 2012 2:35 pm  • 

You’ve probably heard by now about changes in special-teams rules.

Those changes mean Nebraska has some decisions to make.

Among them: Will Husker coaches ask place-kicker/punter Brett Maher to try to boot the ball through the end zone on every chance he gets? After all, kickoffs have been moved up 5 yards, from the 30-yard line to the 35. Here’s the kicker (so to speak): Touchbacks now will come out to the 25.

So, might Maher be asked to loft higher kicks that fall short of the end zone?

"As far as I know, we're just going to kick it out and let them go from the 25 whenever that's a possibility," Maher said Saturday. "But you never know up here what the wind’s going to do. We could get into that coffin-corner stuff and try to let our coverage team take over because they've been pretty good the last few years."

Not last year. The Huskers ranked 104th nationally in defending kickoff returns.

At any rate, it’s also possible to kick "pop-ups" designed to land around the 10-yard line, he said.

"We've worked on it a little throughout camp just because I know it's a possibility," he said.

Maher, a senior from Kearney, comes off a stellar season in 2011, becoming the first Big Ten specialist since 2001 to be named the all-conference place-kicker and punter in the same year. He made 19 of 23 field goals, 43 of 44 PATs and averaged a Big Ten-best 44.5 yards per punt.

He said he tried during the offseason "to fix a couple little things, and hopefully be as perfect as I can," he said.

"I just tried to get a little bit stronger, hit the ball a little more consistently," he said. "It's not rocket science. It's just going back to the basics and trying to perfect everything."

His big season helped lead to some good news Saturday, when Bo Pelini announced Maher was among five former walk-ons who received scholarships.

“Spencer (Long) and I had known for a couple months that this was how it was going to play out,” Maher said. “It’s still cool having everyone know and getting it announced. It’s just real rewarding.”

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