Mitch Lochbihler and Nick Walsh couldn’t be any more different.
The two Kansas State punters, who consider each other to be best friends, have different ways of kicking and another difference that’s apparent just by looking at them. Lochbihler is 6-foot-6 and Walsh is just 5-10.
One thing they have in common, though, is the competition for K-State’s punting job — one neither has gained the edge in yet.
Associate head coach Sean Snyder said he’s still looking for one to impress him over the other.
“They both have the ability to punt and they both have the ability to be very good punters,” he said. “They’ve got to develop consistency. We’ve had a lot of great punters over the years, we’ve had a lot of great snappers, we’ve had a lot of great kickers — what we’ve got to have is that constant consistency where we don’t have the mis-hits and the shanks. Those are things that are unacceptable to us. It puts a heavy pressure on those guys, but the good thing is that when they get to that point, their success rates get better and better.”
Lochbihler’s punting style all has to do with his size. Being so tall and having long legs, he’s able to use his length to put distance and power on the ball. Lochbihler describes it as using his leg as a lever.
Being shorter, Walsh doesn’t have that same luxury. Without the ability to get that flexibility, Walsh said he has to explode through the ball to get equal distance to what Lochbihler does.
“You get a guy that’s 6-6, they’ve got such a long leverage, such powerful legs, then you’ve got a guy that’s more compact, he’s got to use everything,” Snyder said. “(Nick) can punt the ball, he can hit it just as far as Mitch can. With the exception of every now and then when Mitch gets a hold of one and sends it into the next planet.”
Both Lochbihler and Walsh are vying to replace departed punter Mark Krause, who was solid for the Wildcats last season. Walsh said when Snyder wasn’t around to coach them, Krause would always take time to help both work on improving their craft.
And his recent tryouts with NFL teams has shown them that hard work can get you a chance at the NFL. Lochbihler said they both learned plenty from Krause.
“He was great to be around,” he said. “We learned a lot from him, especially him being a senior. Probably the biggest thing we learned was to focus and really compete for what you want.”
No matter who wins the job, Walsh said both have to be ready. With a pair of young punters, both being freshmen, either one can be asked to take the field at any time.
“Nothing’s set in stone,” he said. “It’s just me and him right now, just two guys competing for one position. One guy could get it, but the other guys have got to be ready for those game-time situations.”
The Wildcats are more settled at the kicker position, where junior Jack Cantele is returning after missing the final three games of last season with an injury.
Cantele’s final kick of the 2013 season was a game-winning 41-yard field goal against TCU.
“That was the last kick of the year for me unfortunately,” Cantele said. “That was really it for me. The next week in practice was it for me. It was too bad I couldn’t keep that momentum going, but it’s something to build off of this year.”
Snyder said Cantele is recovered from his injury last season and finally getting back to speed. And he said he’s as confident as ever.
“He handles his kicks a lot better than what he has,” Snyder said. “He’s just grown up a lot.”