With all of the success that the Ohio State Buckeyes and Head Coach Urban Meyer had leading up to signing day, it’s easy to forget the ones that got away. While Dontre Wilson, James Clark, and Vonn Bell were giving last-minute pledges, one long time verbal—Army All-American Punter Johnny Townsend—rescinded his commitment and, at the eleventh hour, signed with the Florida Gators. Townsend gave up the chance to start immediately for the Buckeyes to stay close to his Orlando, Florida home.
On signing day, the rumor was that the unexpected string of late commitments left the Buckeyes without a scholarship to use on the punter. But, as Townsend told the Plain Dealer’s Doug Lesmerises, that just wasn’t the case. Initially, the Gators had offered Townsend as a preferred walk-on, with no scholarship. Then, just a few days before National Signing Day, Gator head coach Will Muschamp called with the scholarship offer, giving the long-time Gator fan quite a bit to ponder. In the end, the lure of home proved too much and Townsend decided to stay in Florida, signing his National Letter of Intent to play for the Gators. Ultimately, it was likely a smart decision for Townsend. Not only will he get to stay close to home, but with the way that the Florida offense works, he will certainly get many more opportunities to punt than would have been afforded to him on an Urban Meyer-coached team.
Townsend’s last-minute de-commitment has left the Buckeyes in a bit of a bind at the Punter position. There will be no scholarship punters on the 2013 team. Placekicker Drew Basil will handle the punting duties. Should the double-duty prove too much for Basil, Wide Receiver Frank Epitropoulos, who punted during his high school days at Upper Arlington, and Jake Russell, a sophomore walk-on out of Twinsburg, Ohio, and Tim Scott will provide other options.
One thing is for certain when it comes to punting and The Ohio State University, Urban Meyer considers the punt one of the most important plays in the game—and he means it. So it’s safe to say that whomever wins the starting punter job will be spending a lot of one-on-one time with the head coach—and will be ready to cut loose come week one.