Wing, Alleman have what it takes
LSU’s kicking combo ready to take their show to primetime
Seriously, it’s not an exaggeration to say that LSU freshman Brad Wing might be the best punter not only in LSU history but as good as any young punter anyone has ever seen on the college level. And despite having to learn how to punt a spiral when he came to America, you can’t diminish what he will bring to fourth-down and long against Alabama on Saturday.
And junior place-kicker Drew Alleman is ready to kick another game-winner, although the only other time he did was as a junior at game’s end to win a Louisiana Class 5A state title five years ago.
So, in a battle between No. 1 and No. 2, in a game one wag in Baton Rouge coined 'Bamageddon,' that is predicted to be so close, so hard-fought, so high level with so little margin for error, it just might come down to a foot.
Or in LSU’s case, feet. The feet of an Australian (Wing) and the foot of a Cajun (Alleman) who have also become best of friends off the field. What’s more, Wing is the holder for Alleman’s place kicks.
Start with Wing, who enters Saturday’s Southeastern Conference showdown in Tuscaloosa between 8-0 teams atop every poll and ranking as the league leader in punting average at 44.4 yards per kick. But here’s the kicker: Wing mostly kicks end-over-end and he kicks with both legs. His left, he said, is a bit stronger, but sometimes he feels like a righty. He’s punted 60 times with 15 downed inside the 20 and eight of those inside the 10, while 11 of them have been longer than 50 yards.
He holds the distinction of becoming the first player to have a touchdown called back because of the new unsportsmanlike-conduct rule and has to be the first player to be given grief – in this case at West Virginia – by opposing players for punting with different feet.
“I don’t know if I can say what they said,” Wing said with a laugh.
Wing, a lanky 6-foot-3, has uncanny power on his punts, yet still has a deft touch. And in LSU’s 41-11 victory against Florida on Oct. 8, he looked up and saw a wide-open field. Instead of punting, Wing sprinted untouched up the left side for a 52-yard touchdown. But, because he spread his arms for a split second toward the Florida defenders running his way, the Aussie’s effort was negated at the 8 with a 15-yard penalty. The resulting drive ended with Alleman booting a 35-yard field goal with Wing holding.
LSU coach Les Miles never flinched and understood Wing’s excitement on the run, but quickly said Wing was wrong and learned a lesson. Wing apologized to one and all afterward.
But for him to even recognize the situation is remarkable considering he’s a guy from Melbourne, Australia, who three years ago couldn’t kick a spiral.
“My dad got with me. You really don’t kick spirals in Australian football because the ball is a bit fatter and a bit rounder,” said Wing, who first played American football at Baton Rouge’s Parkview Baptist High School, which he attended as a senior. He redshirted last year for LSU. But his father, David, punted for the Detroit Lions in 1990 and the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe.
It’s generally assumed that kickers and punters are a bit different. This is: Alleman, Wing and senior punter DJ Howard play “football golf.” They go inside the LSU indoor facility during practice and “we set some trash cans up,” Alleman said. Wing, he said, is ridiculously good at the game. “He’ll make a par 3 and me and DJ, we’re taking 5 shots or more. It’s not fair.”
The 5-11 Alleman will have friends all around Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Many of the players in this game know each other, but none are probably closer than Alleman and Alabama sophomore punter Cody Mandell. Mandell, like Alleman, went to Acadiana High School in Lafayette, La., the same school that produced former Major League pitcher Gil Meche. They saw each other last weekend at a high school game.
Alleman, who started playing soccer at age 4 and took up football in middle school, was asked jokingly if he was bored this season. No, he said, happy that his team is doing so well, but, “I’m happy that I have 12 field goals on the year and 39 extra points. I’ll be ready if I’m called for.” He was right on, but failed to mention that he’d missed two field-goal tries and one extra point, not that it mattered for an LSU team that has won its games by an average of 28 points per game.
“They’re good and we’re good. It could come down to it and if it does, you’ve got to be ready,” he said.
Alleman said if the wind is not against him, he’s capable from 55 yards.
“Kickers dream of games like this coming down to their feet,” Alleman admitted. “I’ll be ready.”