At nearly any other college football program, the loss of a starting punter likely wouldn’t garner much attention. Kansas State is an exception. The Wildcats, owning as proud a special teams lineage as one might come across, enter the 2020 season in search of a new punter following the graduation of Devin Anctil, who held down the spot for the last year and a half.
After taking over as the primary punter midway through the 2018 season, Anctil came into his own last year.
And what a season it was.
He averaged 45.38 yards per punt, setting a single-season school record, held by his mentor and former position coach Sean Snyder, who served as a special teams analyst last year. Anctil’s average led the Big 12 last season and ranked 14th nationally; he also booted a conference-best 18 punts of 50 or more yards, with 14 traveling at least 55 yards and six going further than 60 yards.
So K-State has its work cut out for it trying to find Anctil’s successor.
“It’s kind of a work in progress,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “Devin was such a dynamic punter for us.”
Two players are vying for the spot in preseason camp: fourth-year junior Ty Zentner and third-year sophomore Jack Blumer.
Of the two, Zentner has more name recognition. He was part of the Wildcats’ first signing class under Klieman in 2019. A Topeka native, Zentner started in the junior college ranks, earning first-team all-conference honors at Butler Community College in 2018 after averaging 39.5 yards per punt on 64 attempts. Twenty-eight of those kicks landed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Those exploits led ESPN to name him the top junior college kicker prospect in the 2019 cycle, coming in at No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite.
He played sparingly last season. With Anctil handling punting duties, Zentner served as a kickoff specialist in four games — helping him retain a redshirt — and notching 14 touchbacks on 18 attempts.
His quest to take over for Anctil has hit a snag recently, however. Klieman said Zenter “has been a little banged up” during camp, preventing him from participating in practice.
That’s opened the door for Blumer.
That might not have been expected after he excelled at another spot during a decorated career at Marysville High. He starred at quarterback — in addition to starting at punter — and honors were aplenty during his senior campaign in 2019. The Topeka Capital-Journal and The Wichita Eagle both selected Blumer as a first-team all-state performer, while the Kansas Football Coaches Association (KFBCA) selected him as one of the top 11 players in the state. He was named the Sports in Kansas Player of the Year for Class 3A and won the 2018 Shrine Bowl East MVP award. That came after leading the Bulldogs to a 13-2 record in 2017, capped by a trip to the state championship game. Blumer carried them their with both his arm and his legs, throwing for 3,165 yards and 31 touchdowns to go along with 994 yards and 14 scores on the ground.
He joined the Wildcats in 2018, redshirting as a freshman. He didn’t take the field last season. That might change this fall — provided Blumer can beat Zentner for the starting job.
“It’s been something that we’ve spent an awful lot of time on. It’s still an open competition,” Klieman said. “We’ll play it out over the next few weeks and see who ends up being the guy.”