MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Elite. That’s the type of player Neal Brown believes Oliver Straw will be this season.
The Aussie punter had an impact on a number of games for the Mountaineers as a freshman and earned two Big 12 Player of the Week honors.
As WVU looks for increased production out of its special team’s units this season, it all starts with Straw and his versatility at the position.
“He can kick it right-footed [or] left-footed. He can spiral, kick it end over end, he’s got all the tools,” Brown said. “He can kick it from the pocket, roll out each way. He gives us a lot of flexibility from a protection standpoint.”
Straw’s understanding of the game, especially from a protection standpoint is something Brown said doesn’t get enough credit. He’s able to see it unfold in the moment and position himself accordingly.
For a guy whose background is in Australian ules football and rugby, he’s picked up the collegiate game quickly.
“There’s a toughness aspect of it. He’s had to perform under pressure,” Brown said. “Those are competition reps and pressure reps and Ollie over in Australia had these intense, competitive reps versus grown men and had to perform.”
His ability to handle pressure showed quite a few times last season, including in the regular season finale at Oklahoma State.
“The only snap he dropped. He was so calm. It was pouring rain, about 35 degrees and he comes, circles the ball like he’s supposed to, and gets it off,’ Brown said. “He’s really even-keeled. That was a rugby move because that’s what happens all the time.”
As a freshman, Straw averaged 42.3 yards per punt with 23 touchbacks last season. His longest punt was 63 yards and he pinned the opponent inside the 20 on 18 occasions.
Only seven of his 48 punts were returned for a total of 19 yards.
“We are a team that really wants to be a fair catch team so the hang time is important,” Brown said.