the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, April 20, 2015

Draft Preview: Darragh O'Neill

Among the punters eligible for this year's NFL draft, or signing as an undrafted free agent thereafter, is Colorado's Darragh O'Neill. He ranks in the top ten in the majority of the various draft rankings.

Excerpts from O'Neill's profile page on the Buffaloes' website:

2014 Senior Season
  • finished his career as CU’s all-time leader in punts (281), punting yards (12,001), punts inside-the-20 (95) and inside-the-10 (34); his 42.71 average was the ninth-best in school annals
  • usually a right-footed kicker, but with his soccer background, could punt with his left and did so 12 times (for 507 yards, an average of 42.3 per with a long of 59 and four inside-the-20)
  • earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors from the league coaches (third-team by and Phil Steele’s College Football), and also garnered second-team All-Colorado honors from the state’s chapter of the National Football Foundation
  • selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game following the season (where he averaged 42.0 yards for six punts, 39.5 net, with two inside-the-20; one inside-the-10; he also had the “catch” of the game when he snared a high snap with one hand to save his team a safety). 
  • placed a school single-season record 27 inside-the-20 (14 inside-the-15, nine inside-the-10 and four inside-the-5); he had just three touchbacks
2013 Junior Season
  • Only 20 of his kicks were returned, with another 19 fair caught (four went for touchbacks)
  • placed 22 kicks inside-the-20, 18 of which were inside-the-15; his 10 inside-the-10 set a school record (three were placed inside-the-5)
  • had a punt blocked against USC, which ended a streak of 131 without one that dated back to 2011; it was the second-longest streak in school history (to 153 by Barry Helton, 1984-87)
  • converted a 2-point conversion on a run against Charleston Southern, the first CU punter to ever score a 2-point PAT (he also attempted a failed pass for one at Arizona State)
2012 Sophomore Season
  • earned honorable mention All-American honors from Sports Illustrated, and honorable mention All-Pac 12 accolades from the league coaches 
  • placed a school record 25 inside-the-20 (14 inside-the-15, seven inside-the-10 and two inside-the-5), forcing 23 fair catches as 60.5 percent of his kicks were not returned
  • had 16 kicks of 50 yards or longer
  • A former walk-on, he was placed on scholarship permanently beginning in the 2012 spring semester
2011 Freshman Season
  • his 74 punts were the most ever by a Buff frosh, breaking Grossnickle’s record of 60
  • earned second-team Freshman All-American honors from both and Phil Steele’s College Football and was a first-team Freshman All-Pac 12 performer
  • a three-time honorable mention Intersport Performer of the Week selection fort his efforts against Colorado State (43.7 average on seven punts), Oregon (43.2, 12) and UCLA (44.0, 6)
  • 21 of his 74 kicks placed inside-the-20 (eight inside-the-10, three inside-the-5) and 17 traveling 50 yards or longer with 57 his longest
  • Against Oregon, he placed six punts inside-the-20, setting a CU single-game record as it topped the five that Mitch Berger had against Texas in 1993; four of those were inside-the-10, also a school best as several had done it three times
  • joined the team as a walk-on in spring practices, trying out as a punter; it was the first time he had ever played organized football
High School
  • lettered three times in both basketball and soccer for Boulder’s Fairview High
  • Max Preps Player of the Year as a senior in basketball, earning first-team All-Colorado, All-State (5A) and All-Front Range League honors
  • In soccer, playing forward for coach Stan Jozwiak, he scored 35 goals in his three-year career, including 13 his senior season when he earned honorable mention All-State honors.  He had 12 goals as a junior and 10 as a sophomore.

College Stats:
2014: 65 punts, 44.1 yard average, long of 62 yards
2013: 66 punts, 40.5 yard average, long of 56 yards
2012: 76 punts, 43.5 yard average, long of 61 yards
2011: 74 punts, 42.6 yard average, long of 57 yards

A few years ago, O'Neil discussed his transition into American football:
“Playing Gaelic football helped me because I’m used to kicking the ball out of my hands. I played with Cahirsveen on summer holidays up to Under-12. When I was Under-16 or so, I’d go and train just to keep in shape for basketball and soccer. They have a North American championship and I played a few games in that with Denver Gaels. I think there are Gaelic footballers who could make an impact in American football, especially with field goal kicking. A couple of teams contacted Maurice back in the day to do that. The ball is very different but I definitely think if Gaelic players worked with it for a while they’d master it.”

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