LINCOLN — Jonathan Rutledge was already hip to the Australian punting pipeline. Now Nebraska’s new special teams analyst has the Huskers grabbing a punter from Down Under, too.
Daniel Cerni, a native of Canberra, Australia, announced Monday that he was accepting a scholarship to NU for the 2020 season. Nebraska recruited the 20-year-old through Prokick Australia, which has sent dozens of punters to college football, including five Ray Guy Award winners.
Illinois punter Blake Hayes, who led the league in gross yards per punt last year, came through Prokick. Iowa’s Michael Sleep-Dalton, who just graduated, did as well. Ditto for two recent 2021 commits to Ohio State and Michigan State. Now Nebraska joins the fun, thanks in large part to Rutledge, who worked with Prokick alums at North Carolina and Auburn.
The reputation of Australian punters boils down to this: Strong legs and long hang times.
Cerni, who can average close to five seconds of hang time, fits the bill, according to Prokick kicking coach and academic adviser Johnny Smith.
“Daniel’s a man-child,” Smith said from Australia on Monday night. “His ability to hit ball after ball is what separates him. And he’s a very, very good person. He’s not much of a talker. He’s a doer. He’ll be great for Nebraska.”
Smith said Rutledge has a strong relationship with Prokick, which develops trust with coaches and makes recommendations of which punters would fit at various schools. Cerni is a good fit at Nebraska, Smith said, because he’s from Canberra, the Australian capital, where the cold weather and the winds are similar to autumn in Nebraska.
Cerni joins a crowded room of players who will battle to be Nebraska's starting punter, including sophomore walk-on William Przystup — who would have been the odds-on favorite to win the job before Cerni's arrival — and freshmen walk-ons Grant Detlefsen and Tyler Crawford. They'll be battling to replace Isaac Armstrong, who helped the Huskers finish 42nd overall in net punting last season.
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