HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The way the football explodes off the foot of Marshall University punter Tyler Williams, it seems effortless. Through the first two weeks of Thundering Herd practices, spectators have marveled at how his punts have soared, sending returners scrambling backward to catch them.
Talk to Williams, though, and success isn't so simple. There's a lot that goes into the swing of his leg, and after such a dominant season in 2012, he hopes the changes he's made this preseason will lead to even better results this year.
No one would blame Williams for sticking with what worked. It worked wonderfully. As a freshman, he averaged 45.19 yards per punt. The Herd's high-volume, high-octane offense didn't leave him many opportunities to punt, so his per-game average was too low to qualify for the NCAA's leaderboard. But if he did qualify, he would have ranked ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Still, he was named a Football Writers Association of America freshman All-American, a Conference USA all-freshman team member and a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. Yet he's not about to rest on his laurels. Williams can't point to just one change in his punting that has made the most difference. A number of little modifications have worked.
"I've really stretched a lot, getting my hamstrings more flexible so I can get through the ball better," Williams said. "I've shortened my steps a little bit, changed my drop a little bit. I've really worked on my stamina so I can hit more reps off my foot so I'm not dying. I don't really know if there's one, with all the little things that come into play."
It's led to a much different preseason for Marshall's punting game than the Herd had last year.
"This time last year we didn't have a punter," Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said. "I was scared to death that we weren't going to have anybody who could punt the ball."
Williams was in a battle with former Herd punter Austin Dumas for the starting job and both went through their struggles during the preseason. Once Williams pulled ahead in the race, his confidence and performance soared.
"That kid works his tail off and the production speaks for itself," Holliday said. "He's picked up where he left off. Once we decided he was our guy, he just got better and better."