Last spring was painful in many ways for fourth-year punter Brock Harvey.
Harvey, Missouri’s starting punter the past two seasons, had surgery on his right, kicking foot after last season that forced him to miss the spring training period.
“It’s tough to see your competitors out there working when you know you should be right there next to them and they’re getting a step ahead of you,” Harvey said after Friday’s practice.
“This program is built on competition and it’s just tough to sit out and be away from my teammates too, being here for four years.”
This season, Harvey is competing with sophomore Matt Hoenes for the punting position, one of the closest competitions on the team.
Because Harvey could not punt after surgery, he ran, participated in the team’s weight training and used alternative methods to practice his punting form.
“In late June, I started punting a Nerf ball to begin and then a miniball and then I went into the full-size ball,” Harvey said.
Harvey said he is working to regain his power, but he also needs to focus on the technical and mental aspects of punting.
“I got a month to work on getting my power back,” Harvey said. “Right now I’m working on technique and my leg is not as strong as it will be, but it will be there.”
Coach Gary Pinkel said the coaching staff thinks Harvey has looked healthy enough to be a candidate for starting punter.
“We’re certainly pleased with his progress and he’s doing a lot of good things out there and decided that he’s going to be healthy, and I think he’s got a chance,” Pinkel said after Thursday’s practice. “Hoenes is working hard, too, and it’s going to be a good competition.”
Pinkel would like to see the punting squad regain the consistency it had in 2002 when Harvey averaged 42.5 yards per punt and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 Conference honors.
The surgery resulted from an injury that happened in a 2002 practice that was thought to be a high ankle sprain and might have contributed to Harvey’s average dropping to 36.8 yards per punt in 2003.
“It was bearable pain to play through but, you know, it affected things,” Harvey said.
Harvey was strong at times last year, averaging 51 yards in two punts at Colorado and kicking one 63 yards against Illinois, but his low average shows the inconsistency he experienced.
“A lot of punting is mental,” Harvey said. “We got the physical capability to do it, it’s just day in, day out, being consistent.”
Harvey’s struggles last year did not translate into the classroom, where he earned Big 12 All-Academic honors and received his bachelor’s degree in May in agribusiness management.