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Red Raiders turn over punting job to strong-legged Symmank

Taylor Symmank gave a glimpse of his talent during last year's Texas Tech-TCU game.

Posted: August 13, 2014 - 10:34pm  |  Updated: August 14, 2014 - 12:31am
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Texas Tech's has a solid special teams weapon in Taylor Symmank. (FILE)  Stephen Spillman / AJ Media
Stephen Spillman / AJ Media
Texas Tech's has a solid special teams weapon in Taylor Symmank. (FILE)
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Taylor Symmank gave a glimpse of his talent during last year’s Texas Tech-TCU game.

Given a shot to be Tech’s first-string punter that night, he got off punts covering 60, 50 and 56 yards and put two shorter ones inside the Horned Frogs’ 20-yard line.

The next week against Texas State, his average for four punts dipped to 33.5 yards, and the Red Raiders went back to reliable senior Ryan Erxleben.

This year, there’s no such safety net. Erxleben, a four-year starter, graduated, and the job is Symmank’s going into his junior year.

“It’s different not having Erxleben here,” Symmank said. “All the specialists will say that, but I think it helps us stay focused more. It helps me realize I have a lot to do and it helps me push myself every day.”

Symmank, a 6-foot-2, 192-pound junior from McKinney Boyd, might have the strongest leg of any Tech punter since Mark Bounds, who averaged a school-record 46.8 yards during his unanimous All-America season of 1991.

“He’s got an NFL leg. There’s no question about it,” new special teams coach Darrin Chiaverini said.

Chiaverini’s four years as an NFL player overlapped for a couple of seasons in Cleveland with Chris Gardocki, a punter who spent 16 years in the league.

“Gardocki had a huge leg. He’s got that kind of leg,” Chiaverini said of Symmank. “Now it’s a matter of being mentally tough and being consistent with yourself. Not going through the ups and downs, having good body language and being consistent.”

Symmank can turn to any number of people for advice. He’s a grandson of sports scientist Bob Ward, the Tom Landry era Dallas Cowboys’ strength and conditioning coach who taught him to punt only three years ago. Like many specialists, Symmank stays in touch with a kicking consultant, in his case, Chris Shaw in Dallas.

Last month, Symmank joined other college punters, kickers and deep snappers for a three-day Kohl’s National Elite Camp in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

“I’m always trying to do something new, trying to figure out ways to elevate my game,” he said. “Going to various camps. Hanging out with different people that kick and (learning) what they do that makes them successful so I can be successful as well.

“The program we have here with (strength and conditioning) coach (Chad) Dennis has really helped a lot with my physical (preparation), just being ready and helping my leg be as explosive as it can be. I think those are the two big things that helped me this year.”

Symmank works on kickoffs and field goals in addition to punting. To avoid leg fatigue, he stays away from training punts and kickoffs on the same day.

The Red Raiders’ new special teams coach has watched Symmank put all he’s learned into play.

“I’ve been impressed with his work ethic,” Chiaverini said. “He’s worked hard. That’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

Now it’s up to Symmank to bring it to the stadium each kick, every Saturday.

“That’s what makes the best the best,” he said, “is doing it every time.”

 

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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