Stan Gaudion looked around at the vacant 50,000 seats of Aloha Stadium during the Hawaii football team’s lone fall camp practice/walkthrough at its home venue.
Last Saturday could have been any Saturday under the bright lights, crowd or no crowd. And the third-year sophomore punter treated it as such, booming several balls long distances during the team’s scrimmage session.
“Oh, just so much fun, really. Obviously training’s awesome back in Manoa, but it’s something special about coming out to the stadium, especially at nighttime under the lights,” the Melbourne, Australia native said. “As a punter in particular, the high rises on the side make it really nice punting in here. I reckon this is about the best place to punt in the world, Aloha Stadium.”
“It’s something,” Gaudion mused. “The way the stadium’s set up. There’s just so many great punters who’ve come through here, from Mat McBriar, Alex Dunnachie, Rigo Sanchez. So many guys have come here and played great, and I think it’s set up down here that contributes towards that.”
There’s no arguing with the numbers. Gaudion, in his first season of action, averaged 42.1 yards per punt, fourth in the Mountain West. While the heavy lifting in the placekicking game went to Ryan Meskell and Kekoa Sasaoka on Saturday, there was little question about Gaudion’s primacy in punting.
“This is home,” special teams coach Michael Ghobrial said Saturday. “Being able to punt in the home stadium, there’s nothing like it. Even when there’s no crowd out here. There’s a sense of comfort that, ‘OK, it’s game time.’ He obviously chose this school because he felt he would be very successful (here). … He really showcased his leg strength today and I was fired up for him.”
Lately, it’s been about quality over quantity, and as much the unconventional (rollout punts) as the conventional.
“I think we got five or six (during the scrimmage), and they felt really good,” Gaudion said. “So Coach (Gobi) has been cutting our reps back. We’ve gone from like, having a lot of kicks at practice to just having a couple. He’s instilled this kind of ‘one shot, one kill’ mentality, that’s kind of our slogan for special teams. That’s a big thing he’s brought in.”
Ghobrial, while saying of Gaudion, “obviously a proven guy from last year and I’m expecting really big things from him this year,” is a restless soul when it comes to progression.
“The progress and the intent have been great,” Ghobrial said. “I’ve been fired up with the guys using their new techniques and just pushing themselves to be the best them they can be. I wouldn’t say that we’re necessarily content with where we are, because we’re striving for excellence. That’s something that these guys really hone in on, these guys really support each other. But I am very pleased with where we’re at right now, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword. We’re in a really good spot, but we could always be better.”