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Sterling Hofrichter tries to fill Riley Dixon’s void

first_img Published on September 7, 2016 at 11:30 pm Contact Matt: [email protected] | @matt_schneidman Facebook Twitter Google+ Gone are the days of Syracuse punter Heisman campaigns. So too, presumably, are the highlight-reel fake punts on fourth downs. Riley Dixon is starting for the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos now. Syracuse has Sterling Hofrichter.Who?“You’re talking about my punter?” Dino Babers said with a laugh when asked about Hofrichter on Wednesday’s Atlantic Coast Conference coaches teleconference.A relative unknown in the post-Dixon era, Hofrichter recognizes he can’t replicate the star that Dixon became amid a tumultuous 2015 season. After all, he’s eight inches shorter and 36 pounds lighter than Dixon was last year, and his 5-foot-9, 183-pound frame makes him the shortest and second-lightest starting punter in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But after a year under Dixon’s tutelage, Hofrichter will continue his turn in the punter’s spotlight when Syracuse (1-0) faces No. 13 Louisville (1-0) in the Carrier Dome Friday at 8 p.m.“You can’t really try to be like Riley,” Hofrichter said. “Two different people … I guess to other people there is pressure, but I’m trying to just think of it as there’s no pressure. Just come in, just try to do what I can do.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textDixon’s rise originated when he was a walk-on from local Christian Brothers (New York) Academy. His ascendance has reached its peak five years later, as Dixon unseated longtime NFL punter Britton Colquitt in Denver. Hofrichter has been on scholarship from the start but is only one game into his collegiate career after redshirting last year.What Hofrichter learned from Dixon was to keep it simple. Don’t try and blast the ball as far as possible. Keep your mechanics fine-tuned and under control. Think small, then big punts will come.Hofrichter pointed out stark differences in the way each punts the ball, and the results stem from the noted size difference. While Dixon launches the ball at a much higher trajectory, predicating his success on sheer power, Hofrichter hits more of a line drive.“With Riley, since he’s taller, he’s able to get the ball to shoot up more and then go out,” Hofrichter said. “For me, since I’m shorter, my balls more kind of just fly out and they usually flutter on the way down which helps it get more hang time.”Hofrichter has one goal for each of his punts: force the returner into a fair catch. He leans on that hang time to allow Syracuse’s gunners to get downfield when Hofrichter doesn’t force a fair catch. Against Colgate, he forced them on two of his three punts. Colgate’s only return went 9 yards.His 45.3-yard average in the season-opener is better than Dixon’s 43.7-yard average from a year ago. If anything, it’s a start.“He’s also good fundamentally, so he can attack a spot, where other athletes can’t attack a spot,” said Jamie Kohl, director of Kohl’s Kicking, Punting and Snapping Camps. “They have to be more conservative when they sling because they’re not as sure with their rhythm or with the ball when it leaves their hand, where it’s gonna be. Sterling knows where it’s gonna be so he can be more aggressive.“Combine that with his leg speed and that’s where you get him being very effective at the college level as a punter.”Two years ago, Scott Shafer offered Hofrichter a scholarship when he saw him kick a 55-yard field goal in Seffner, Florida, where Hofrichter attended Armwood (Florida) High School. Two years later, he’s only punting, and he prefers focusing on one special teams discipline for now.All he wants to do is get experience. And with the task of replacing one of Syracuse’s most beloved players and one of the country’s best punters, that’s not a bad place to start.“I think he’s a really good punter,” Babers said. “I hope not to use him too much, but I think he has the ability to be an excellent punter for us.” Commentslast_img read more