Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman became a bit of an Internet sensation before he ever played in a game for the Buckeyes.
Chrisman went viral on Twitter this summer when he posted a video of himself participating in the memetic sport of water bottle flipping, where he demonstrated his ability to flip a plastic water bottle over his shoulder and land it upright.
Water bottle flipping isn't dead pic.twitter.com/zraTNiiOll— Drue Chrisman (@DChrisman91) July 7, 2017
Now that football season is underway, however, the self-described "bottle flip extraordinaire" has turned his attention away from making viral videos and toward his new role as the Buckeyes’ starting punter.
"Right now, during the season, I’m focused on flipping the field," Chrisman said.
In a disappointing start to the season in which the Buckeyes have had issues on both offense and defense, Chrisman has been one of the team’s brightest spots.
Chrisman has averaged 45.5 yards per punt, downing seven of his 10 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, in his first two games as Ohio State’s starting punter. He ranks 20th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in average yards per punt and has not had a single punt returned yet.
Punting was a question mark for Ohio State entering the season following the departure of Cameron Johnston, who gave the Buckeyes one of the best punters in college football from 2013-16. So far, though, Chrisman has looked like he could be the Buckeyes’ next four-year punting great.
"There were definitely some big shoes to fill. Cameron had an incredible career," Chrisman said. "My goal was to have no drop-off from that. First game, got out there, definitely had some nerves. Had trouble turning the ball over. But I just told myself just to relax last game and just have fun and things started to work out and I had a pretty decent game. I’m pretty happy with how I started."
Ohio State special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs isn’t surprised by Chrisman’s immediate success.
"Drue Chrisman is a phenomenal punter," Coombs said in August. "You are going to be excited to see what Drue does with the ball. We had a great punter (Johnston), we have another great punter."
Although he was the nation’s No. 1 punter for the recruiting class of 2016 out of La Salle High School in Cincinnati, Chrisman says he was glad he had the opportunity to redshirt last season. He says he actually chose Ohio State in part because he would have the opportunity to learn behind Johnston for a year instead of being thrown directly in the fire.
"Going from high school to college is a big transition,” Chrisman said. "Football-wise and class-wise. So having a year to train under, in my opinion the best punter in college, was a huge benefit to my success this year."
Chrisman believes he is a better punter now than he would have been a year ago after learning from Johnston but also from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who spends time working directly with the punters himself.
"He told me in recruiting, punting’s kind of his baby," Chrisman said of Meyer. "Every single day, we’ll go through the film, we’ll look at the numbers. He hand-picked me … I have a lot of respect for that, and he’s a great punting coach, and he’s definitely made me a better punter."
“Having a year to train under, in my opinion the best punter in college, was a huge benefit to my success this year.”– Drue Chrisman, on Cameron Johnston
Chrisman says he has also gotten stronger from working with director of football sports performance Mickey Marotti in the weight room. Perhaps most importantly, though, Chrisman has become mature and more mentally prepared for the pressure of punting at the collegiate level.
"The Indiana game, that was a pretty nerve-wracking game, just being out there for your first snaps," Chrisman said. "I feel like I would feel that all season if I didn’t have last year."
From a technique standpoint, Chrisman says he is a different punter than Johnston. Chrisman, who is 6-foot-3, describes himself as “more of a long-lever guy,” whereas Johnston, who is 5-foot-11, used his leg speed to drive the ball. How to handle the pressure, though, is something Chrisman says he did learn from Johnston. While he hasn’t done it in a game yet, Chrisman says he has also learned how to execute a rugby-style punt on the move – one of Johnston’s specialties – even though he never did it in high school.
As Ohio State continues its season against Army this week and looks to bounce back from its loss to Oklahoma last week, Chrisman’s focus is continuing to punt well, as he believes special teams can provide a real spark for the Buckeyes going forward.
With that being said, Chrisman says we haven’t seen him the last of him as a bottle flipper.
"It’s kind of my hobby. Everybody’s got their own thing. A lot of guys play NBA 2K or whatever it is, and I’m flipping water bottles," Chrisman said. "That’s kind of my thing. I enjoy it. You’ll see some more in the future."