Oct. 29, 2007
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IOWA CITY – Jason Baker knows a little about punting the football, so when he comments about the punter at the University of Iowa, fans of the Hawkeyes would be wise to listen.
“You’re going to have inconsistency. All of us did,” Baker told Gary Dolphin of the Hawkeye Radio Network when asked about UI freshman Ryan Donahue during Iowa’s game two weeks ago at Purdue.
“What I like to see is what I’m seeing: He looks like a very good athlete. Give him time – this is the Big Ten, after all, not high school. And, he needs to continue to work on his mechanics. It’s no different than a golf swing. Good mechanics. Solid fundamentals.”
Donahue averaged 51.6 yards on eight punts in last Saturday’s double-overtime victory over Michigan State. In addition to a career-high 81-yarder – the second longest punt in Iowa football history – Donohue had kicks of 55, 53, 50, 49, 46 and 44 yards.
Baker must have also heeded his own advice of zeroing in on fundamentals. Up and down with his per punt averages in his first four seasons as a pro, Baker has settled in nicely at Carolina. He averaged 45.7 yard per punt last season with career highs for long (70 yards) and downed inside the 20 (31). Both of those marks were improvements from 2005, his first year with Carolina.
He currently ranks sixth in the NFL with a 44.4 yard per punt average, a mark that included 54-yarder in the Carolina Panthers’ 31-7 loss Sunday to the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts. He averaged 46 yards on six kicks against the Colts.
“I’m enjoying it. I’m feeling settled and confident,” Baker said. “Confidence. Solid fundamentals and a little luck can go a long, long way in this game. Plus, it helps to have a solid group of teammates around you.”
Baker’s Panthers head to next week’s game against Tennessee with a 4-3 record and an eye on returning to post-season action.
“It won’t come easy. Nothing does in this league. But we have a shot,” Baker said.
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