Cass Couey stood with his heels on the 5-yard line at Williams-Brice Stadium, just in front of a rowdy South Carolina student section.
“I could hear every word they were saying,” The Citadel’s punter said, recalling last year’s game against the Gamecocks. “It was a little intimidating.”
But after Couey unleashed a majestic 59-yard punt, the crowd of 76,816 let out a collective “Oooh.”
Couey, a redshirt senior from Tampa, Fla., has impressed many with his punting skills over the last four years. In fact, the 6-1, 210-pounder has a chance to make The Citadel three-for-three in sending a player to the NFL over the last three years.
“I’m working for it,” said Couey, who currently ranks second in the Southern Conference and sixth in FCS with an average of 44.1 yards per punt. “I know that nothing’s guaranteed, and right now I’m just trying to focus on the season and doing the best I can for the team.”
The success of two of his former teammates, Andre Roberts and Cortez Allen, might help Couey’s cause. Roberts already has caught four touchdown passes this season, his third with the Cardinals, and Allen is in his second year as a cornerback with the Steelers.
Citadel coach Kevin Higgins said almost every NFL team came through in the preseason to check out Couey, who ranked first in the SoCon and fifth in FCS last year with an average of 43.0 yards per punt.
“We always knew Cass had a strong leg,” Higgins said. “But he’s worked hard at his trade over the last two years, and has become a lot more focused and serious about it.”
Couey credits the structure of the military school for much of that focus. “The Citadel stuck out to me because of its structure,” he said. “Plus, I love to fish, and there’s plenty of that in Charleston.”
Early in his career, Couey struggled with consistency, booming one punt and shanking the next. He’s come a long way in that regard, and also has developed a nice touch to go along with his power.
Of his 21 punts this season, four have traveled over 50 yards, and nine have been downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, with only two touchbacks.