Jesse Mirco, Ohio State's leading rusher in terms of yards per carry this season, is a really good punter, too.
Punters rarely get discussed when it comes to the average football fan. Much like offensive linemen, if you hear a punter's name a lot it's most likely due to the fact that they are struggling and not punting the ball well.
For Mirco, it's been business as usual this season. He gets the job done when called upon on fourth down and goes back to the sidelines. Until the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 49-10 blowout win over Rutgers.
The sophomore's biggest moment so far in his college career came on a 22-yard fake punt run midway through the fourth quarter. Following a late hit out of bounds, one in which Mirco bounced right back up, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano came over to Ohio State's sideline and had a word with Ryan Day while the two pointed fingers and shouted at one another.
Although Day did not call for a fake punt and said after the game he would have a conversation with Mirco about making that decision in a 39-point game, Mirco was named Ohio State’s special teams player of the game for his efforts.
“It was a unique situation, for sure,” Day said Tuesday on 97.1 The Fan’s Buckeye Roundtable. “And very rare to see a situation like that. But you know, for Jesse, I think he’s somebody who is a really good athlete. He played Australian rules football growing up.
“I think sometimes punters and kickers, that’s just kind of their specialty and that’s what they do. He’s a very good athlete, and was a good player when he played Australian rules football. So I think his instincts kind of took over (when Rutgers overloaded one side to try and block the punt).”
While that was certainly his most popular highlight of the season, Mirco has done a great job in terms of actually punting the ball, which is what really matters for both him and the Buckeyes.
On just 15 punts, the second-year punter is averaging 43.4 yards per punt (58th-most in FBS). That seems low in the rankings, but his 42.1 net yards per punt ranks much higher (21st). Not one of Mirco’s punts has been returned by an opponent yet this season, and 10 of his 15 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line with just one touchback.
|Yards Per Punt||43.4||58th|
|Net Yards Per Punt||42.1||21st|
|Punts Downed Inside 20-Yard Line||10||T-11th|
|Punts Returned By Opponent||0||1st|
Even with fewer punts than many of the other top punters in the FBS through five games this season, Mirco continues to help his team any way he can every time he gets an opportunity.
“I'm happy winning, so I'll take it,” Mirco said last week when asked if the fewer number of punts affects him. “If anything, it's the opposite I guess. It's the same job every time but having the offense score points and give us a lead every week it's pretty comfortable going out there knowing that, in my eyes, it gives us some freedom to make a play.”
According to analytics developed by cfbfastR’s Jared Lee, Mirco has been the second-best punter in the FBS so far this season, behind only Michigan State's Bryce Baringer.
Time for our first look at the Punter Advanced Stats Leaderboard, I promise this is out of everyone in the country, not just the Big 10— Jared Lee (@JaredDLee) October 4, 2022
MSU's Bryce Baringer is 1st in Punter EPA but Ohio State's Jesse Mirco is in a close second because of a slightly worse coverage team pic.twitter.com/VMXNDGAAv1
Following in the footsteps of punters such as Cameron Johnston and Drue Chrisman certainly isn't easy. They were two of the best in the country during their respective careers at Ohio State. Five games into Mirco's second season in Columbus, he's doing his best to be just as good.
Johnston is a huge reason why Ohio State's newest Australian punter chose the Buckeyes in the first place, and he’s played a part in Mirco’s early success.
“Cam's been great. He told me what a special place it is here. The winning culture and just stuff like that,” Mirco said. “Cam lives here most of the offseason so I've worked with him a lot and it definitely helps me and my game, learning from one of the best in the NFL. It's definitely something I appreciate.”
The Buckeyes travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State for their first road game of the season Saturday afternoon. The game will feature plenty of storylines, including Ohio State's high-powered offense against the Spartans' struggling defense, but the game will also feature two of the best punters in the FBS. That will make winning the field-position battle even more important than usual.
“We gotta win the kicking game, it’s part of our plan to win,” Day said Tuesday.
Ohio State's offense is one of the best in the country. Its defense is a top-10 unit entering the sixth week of the season. With two top-10 units on both sides of the ball, don't discount how important special teams is as well. Mirco’s ability to flip the field and force the opposing offense to try and cover more yardage whenever the Buckeyes don’t score is huge. It's a confidence boost for everyone on the team, especially defensively. Day knows he has a punter he can count on, even if he’d prefer not to have to use him much.