Notre Dame punter Tyler Newsome set to put education to use

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — There’s an education that can be obtained in a classroom setting.

And then there’s an education that can be obtained by paying close attention to the guy standing next to you.

Guess which one makes the biggest impact.

Tyler Newsome learned everything he needed to know about surviving on the Notre Dame football team as a punter by watching every move Kyle Brindza made last season.

A 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore, Newsome will be one of the interesting players to watch in Saturday’s invitation-only Blue-Gold Game. Brindza was a fixture as a punter and placekicker for so long, that handing those duties over to youngsters will give Irish fans something to fret over that they had taken for granted for so long.

While Newsome seems to have wrapped up the punting job, he’s not conceding kickoffs and field goals and extra points to incoming freshman Justin Yoon just yet. That battle will wage come August.

“We don’t offer (scholarships to) specialists unless we’ve seen them multiple times,” said Irish assistant coach Scott Booker, special teams coordinator. “We were really impressed with (Newsome’s) frame. He’s a hard worker. He has great, long levers. He’s a stickler with his technique. We’re really happy with (what he showed in the spring).

“Anybody who hasn’t played at the University of Notre Dame on Saturdays, we’d be lying to you if we said we knew exactly what we were going to get. There’s 80,000 people (in the stands); there’s another 5 million watching us on TV; there’s grandparents, parents… everybody.

“It’s a different deal. You’re running out of that tunnel. You’ve got the gold helmet. Coach (Brian) Kelly’s process since he got here was to try to put those guys in the (pressure) position as much as possible to try to get them ready for those Saturdays.”

“I was real grateful to redshirt,” Newsome said of last season. “At the time, I really wanted to play, but looking back it gave me an opportunity to learn from (Brindza). He was light years ahead of me. It’s really humbling.

“I realized, ‘You’ve got a lot to do if you ever want to play.’ I’ll never forget the first time we went out kicking, (and I saw) how consistent I needed to get. It stuck with me the whole season. I didn’t start to really compete with him until the end of the year. I could tell I was making progress.

“When someone’s that good, if you listen to them, it’s going to rub off on you.”

Brindza helped Newsome with his footwork, speeding up the process of getting the punt off. Newsome said shortening his approach steps has been critical in accelerating his “off” time.

“(Newsome) learned so much from a guy like (Brindza),” Booker said. “Probably 10-12 years down the road…; I know (Brindza) was appreciated here, but to be able to do all three jobs (punt, kickoff, placekicks), and to do them at a high level… He had his ups and downs, but to do what he did for two years, it takes great physical strength.

“You have a leg that’s doing so much more than anybody else. You have to worry about the ‘pitch count’ on his leg. And then, mentally, to go from field goals, to kickoffs, to punting. It was something that was good for Tyler to see. That’s an exception rather than a rule, but he learned a lot from (Brindza).”

Newsome had only punted one year in high school when he caught Notre Dame’s attention. His primary job was placekicking. He hit 17 of 20 field goals and 152 of 155 extra points in his high school career. Also, 76 of 100 kickoffs were touchbacks.

When Newsome arrived on campus, he was averaging about 37 yards a punt in practice. Now, it's about 43, with a hang time of 4.1 seconds - 4-tens of a second more than earlier.

Besides being schooled by Brindza in form and technique, Newsome watched up close and personal the struggles Brindza had – as a punter and placekicker – while he hit 3 of 9 field goals over the last five games, and struggled at times (averaging 35.0 yards against Northwestern) as a punter.

“Kyle was really strong in his mental game,” Newsome said. “He didn’t let a lot of things get to him.

“He’d always say, ‘The most important one is the next one.’ He was always focused. You have to tune out everybody else, know you can, and believe in yourself.”

That will certainly be tested when the bullets start flying for real.

Time to put the education to use.

Notre Dame's Tyler Newsome (85) in warm-up drills Saturday, April 11, 2015, at Notre Dame spring football practice at LaBar Practice Complex in South Bend. SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ via FTP