Jeff Yurk, Caleb Junko Have Separated Themselves in the Competition for Punter
Pitt was one of just eight teams to have three or more punts blocked last season.
Pitt was also the only of those eight teams that used three punters last season, or at least had three punters attempt double-digit punts. And if you count Cam Guess kicking a punt right into a blocker’s back, all three had punts blocked last season.
To put it lightly, ranked as one of the bottom three punting teams in the ACC in total yards and net yards, punting was a disaster last season.
So, Andre Powell has changed some things around this spring.
“It’s a lot of things we’ve already done,” Powell said Thursday. “But we just organized it a little bit better, gave it terminology and we’re just a lot more specific. We’ve got two good punters, we’ve got two good snaps and we’ve got enough personnel with our punt team.”
Junko and Elon transfer Jeff Yurk have separated themselves from the pack so far this spring. It makes sense considering all the punting sessions available to the media this spring have featured Junko and Yurk trading reps.
Junko, in just 12 attempts last season, averaged a very strong 48.7 yards per attempt. He also pinned the opponent inside the 20 four times and booted the ball 50 yards or more three times. It’s carried over this spring, booting a 70-yarder Tuesday.
And he’s joined by Yurk, a mid-year arrival from Elon, who set a program record by averaging 44.1 yards per punt (53 attempts) last season. He was an All-CAA and Sophomore All-American punter.
“(Yurk’s) a strong-legged guy,” Powell said. “He’s got a strong leg. He’s gotta work on hang time. I mean, he kicks the ball too far with not the appropriate hang time.”
Both Yurk and Junko have looked solid halfway through the spring, largely spending their time inside at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and it will be interesting to follow their competition the rest of the way.
Vander Haar, who is on scholarship, and Guess fill out the remainder of the punting room. “Caleb and Jeff, right now, are our top two punters,” Powell said.