Ryan Rehkow punts against Utah on Sept. 11 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Ryan Campbell/BYU Photo)

Ryan Rehkow is the ‘Guy’, BYU football preps for USF

It’s not very often that a punt takes your breath away.

Near the end of the first quarter against Arizona State, BYU punter Ryan Rehkow caught the snap just two yards shy of the end zone, unloaded his cannon of a leg and shot a punt deep into the night sky. At the time, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but soon it became questionable if the ball was ever coming back down to earth again.

Once the punt landed inside the opposite 10-yard line and bounced into the end zone for a touchback, it had traveled 83 yards on the fly for a new school record. The LaVell Edwards Stadium crowd — which had been hushed in collective awe over the mighty blast — erupted to their feet in appreciation of Rehkow’s supernatural abilities.

“I think the conditions during the game were pretty ideal, that punt was about as clean as they come,” Rehkow said of his 83-yarder. If not for Tyler Allgeier’s “tomahawk takeaway” in the third quarter, Rehkow’s punt would have been arguably the play of the game. Following the contest, Rehkow was named to the watchlist for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the top punter in college football.

Graphic by Emme Franks

The art of punting has long been overlooked within football. A great punter can sneakily swing the outcome of a close game by pinning the opponent deep in their own territory or flipping the field, while an error or miscue can loudly prove fatal. Rehkow — whose social media bio reads “punters are people too” — is quickly emerging into the spotlight as one of BYU’s strongest weapons.

“You could make a good case that he’s been the MVP of this team so far,” ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich said of Rehkow on BYU Sports Nation. Rehkow is averaging more than 51 yards per punt in 16 opportunities this season, ranking sixth in the country among qualifying punters. While distance is impressive, Rehkow is striving to refine his punt to give the Cougars as much of an advantage as possible.

“If it’s going to go far, I need to make sure it goes high so our gunners have time to get down there,” Rehkow said. “There are times where I have gotten the distance I wanted, but maybe not the hang time. You don’t want to just kick a touchback, you want to hang it up there and pin them inside the 20.”

Standing at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, you might mistake Rehkow for a tight end upon first glance. Even with a forceful frame, Rehkow’s technique and skill at the position are remarkably delicate.

“He’s a physical specimen, and he already has the measurables that the NFL scouts will love,” former BYU punter Jonny Linehan said. “His consistency is out of this world. His stroke is the same, his drop is the same, and when you add a body of pure power, it’s no surprise that he just smashes footballs.”

Linehan acknowledged that while Rehkow is one of the most talented punters in the country, his actual value to the team goes beyond just his physical abilities. “So far he’s been very efficient, he gets a lot of hang time which gives the coverage time to get down the field, and he’s good in situations where they try to pin them deep. It’s a huge asset to have someone who can flip the field as consistently and reliably as Ryan.”

Having grown up near Spokane, Washington playing soccer, Rehkow took up punting after watching his older brother Austin, who would go on to become a three-time all-conference punter at the University of Idaho and bounce around the professional ranks, most recently to the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. While Rehkow feels he still has plenty of room to improve, he credits his brother and father for helping him reach his current level of success.

“From where I started to where I am now, there’s been a big improvement,” Rehkow said. “(My dad and brother) have been there along the way. They know my potential and (they) help me.”

BYU football can’t afford to overlook South Florida matchup

To say BYU football has had a grueling first three weeks would be an understatement.

It’s no cakewalk to knock off three straight Power-5 opponents to start your season, let alone two ranked squads and your bitter arch-rival. With a flair for the dramatic, the Cougars have proven their worth when the stakes are high.

It would be easy to dismiss Saturday’s matchup with USF as a sleeper. After all, the Cougars opened as 23-point favorites over an underwhelming 1-2 Bulls squad and have the luxury of playing at home once again. The players, however, know better than to discount any opponent.

“You can’t go into any game thinking you’re going to win,” tight end Dallin Holker said. “We have to have the same preparation going into every single week. We need to play our best on Saturday.”

With key battles against Utah State, Boise State and Baylor looming ahead, head coach Kalani Sitake said the Cougars need to continue to improve each week, and playing USF will provide the chance to strengthen their established rhythm moving forward.

“I’ve got to get our team in a better position to have more efficiency and play at our best,” Sitake said. “That’s going to be our focus this week is executing well and everybody knowing their assignments. I was really impressed with the improvements from week two to week three, but we’ve got to make a bigger jump.”

The Cougars and Bulls last met in 2019, when quarterback Jaren Hall made his first career start and shined before leaving the game with a concussion. A defensive collapse allowed USF to surge late and steal the victory, but defensive back D’Angelo Mandell said an increased focus on taking care of the “simple things” has made a difference for BYU’s defensive unit in the two years since their last meeting.

“Doing the small things will end up being more rewarding in the long run,” Mandell said. “They’ve got dudes who go hard and are going to come at us with everything they’ve got, so we better come prepared.”

The Bulls haven’t had ideal results on offense thus far, averaging around 19 points per game and completing less than 50% of their passes. Their defense has been torched to allow 34 points per game with only three sacks, giving Hall and company a chance to “reach their full potential” on offense for BYU.

“We want to be explosive all of the time and be the offense that we know that we can be. We’re trying to put everything together,” Holker said.

The Cougars and Bulls kick off Saturday, Sept. 25 at 8:15 p.m. in Provo.

 

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