DeKALB – Could Tyler Wedel be a do-everything special teams kicker?
Wedel has spent the past three seasons handling kickoffs for Northern Illinois. Last year, the senior put punting duties on his resume.
In 2014, Wedel hopes to pull the trifecta, adding field goal kicking to his responsibilities, with Mathew Sims’ career now over.
Wedel said he had all of last year to get his punting mechanics down, so this spring he’s been focusing more on field goals. Wedel said he tries to kick between 20 and 30 per practice.
“I’ve gotten a lot better. I was recruited here as a punter and a kicker, they recruited me to do both,” said Wedel, who was his team’s kicker and punter at McFarland High School in Wisconsin. “I’m getting back to that form, I’m obviously a little more comfortable. Just have to work on staying focused and getting used to it.”
Last season, the coaching staff also trusted the running ability of Wedel, who was also a quarterback and defensive back in high school. Wedel, who was also the holder for Sims on field goals, had three rushing attempts – two fake punts and a fake field goal.
With the Huskies trailing Iowa in the third quarter of the season opener, NIU faked a punt with Wedel taking off on a 42-yard run, which ended up being one of the biggest plays of the game.
Wedel has an average of 59.8 yards per kickoff in his three seasons as the team’s kickoff specialist. He averaged 40.4 yards per punt in 2013. Leg strength isn’t a problem.
“If it’s a good clear day, he’s anywhere from 40-50-something yards probably,” said Kevin Kane, the Huskies’ special teams coordinator. “We’ll see, we’re going to test it out hopefully this spring.”
Wedel got a taste of collegiate field goal kicking a year ago – hitting 3 of 5 kicks.
He handled field goal duties in games against Akron and Central Michigan with Sims out with a leg injury, though Wedel said it was a tough situation, as Sims was more day-to-day and Wedel didn’t know if he would be kicking until game day.
Wedel hadn’t been practicing field goals last season until Sims went down, so he didn’t have as many field goal reps as he would have liked to fine-tune his mechanics. Wedel would hit field goals from 42, 21 and 34 yards in his two games. Two of his attempts against Akron – from 46 and 40 yards - were blocked.
“It was a difficult task. I did the best I could,” Wedel said. “Those two blocks, those were the only problems that were with last year’s kicks.”
The Huskies have one other kicker with the team this spring, sophomore Josh Orne who walked on to the team during the 2013 season. NIU will bring in a kicker (Christian Hagan) and punter (Peter Deppe) this fall.
At this point in his career, Wedel’s a seasoned veteran. If he gives the Huskies the best option at all three special teams spots, the staff has no problem using him in every role.
“Tyler’s kind of a rare guy where he can do all three. He can kick off, he can do field goals and he can punt. He’s going to have that opportunity to try and do all three this spring,” Kane said. “We’ve got some guys coming in in the fall that will hopefully challenge him and take a little load off him maybe, but if he’s the best, he’s the best.”