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Recruiting process a different journey for punters, specialists

DeKALB – It's tough for Peter Deppe to remember exactly how many kicking camps he went to last summer.

He calls that time "camp season," when he goes around and shows off his skills. Hundreds of specialists from around the nation do the same thing, fighting for the few precious scholarships that are offered to special teamers these days.

"I would say about seven to 10 (camps this past summer)," said Deppe, a senior punter and kicker at Almont (Mich.) High School, who's in town for his official visit to Northern Illinois. "It was a lot. It was a busy summer."

Deppe verbally committed to NIU about halfway through the 2013 season, as the Almont, Mich., native was impressed with the program's recent winning tradition. Over the summer, he spent his time going to various camps around the Midwest, including the Kohl's National Invitational Scholarship Camp in Wisconsin.

It's a prestigious event where players have to earn an invitation, and where members of the Kohl's staff will choose the participants for the Under Armour All-American Game. Kohl's hosts numerous showcase camps, and according to their kicking camps website, 93.5 percent of FBS programs have at least one specialist on their roster who has attended a Kohl's camp.

"You have to be there," Deppe said of the scholarship camp.

At the camp, Deppe and the other punters were charted on distance, hang time and get-off time – the period from where a punter catches a ball to when he kicks it. After the camp, Kohl's rated the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Deppe as the No. 7 punter in the nation. Deppe said he had interest from schools such as Michigan State, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Iowa State, and noted that NIU's interest began when he went to the Huskies' own recruiting camp last summer.

Some of the other top-rated punters on Kohl's list are committed to schools such as Mississippi, Alabama, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

However, as highly rated as Deppe is, he will not be on scholarship as a true freshman. Instead, he's getting a preferred walk-on spot and the plan is to be on scholarship as a redshirt freshman in 2015.

With schools having a limit of 85 scholarships, earning a scholarship as a freshman specialist can be difficult, especially when a school already is using one on a punter. That's the case with NIU and senior Tyler Wedel.

Deppe said earning a scholarship right away depends on the school and what its need is.

Deppe, who said he did not have a punt returned his senior season at Almont and had 12 of his 19 punts land inside the 20-yard line, doesn't think redshirting is a bad route.

"I've heard from Jamie Kohl, I'm good friends with him. He basically runs the whole Kohl's kicking operation," Deppe said. "He said it's good to get into a school and for your first year redshirt and be the backup, just kind of get into the swing of things and roll in the next year and be the starter. I feel like that's why this is such a good option for me."

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