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Geoff Price: Price gets back lost job with hard work

Ken Fowler | Thursday, November 15, 2007

It was the week of Geoff Price’s fifth game of his fifth year. And he got passed on the depth chart.Irish coach Charlie Weis announced that sophomore punter Eric Maust would take over the punting duties for Notre Dame after Price got off to a wobbly start no one saw coming.The graduate with a degree in finance from Hurst, Texas, was a member of the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award after finishing 2006 in the top 10 nationally for punting average. And that came in his first season replacing veteran punter and placekicker D.J. Fitzpatrick.But Price was inconsistent in Notre Dame’s first four games this season, and Weis was ready to make a switch.”I came into this year with a lot of high expectations – both myself and a lot of outside pressure was on me,” Price said. “… I don’t want to say it affected me; maybe it did subconsciously because I knew I just needed to go out there and do a job and if I did it, those types of things would come. Unfortunately it didn’t happen and it was a very humbling experience. It’s something that you never as an athlete ever want to go through.”But he did – and he bounced back immediately.Weis released the depth chart with Price at No. 2 the Tuesday before the Purdue game. Maust punted three times against the Boilermakers, but Price took it in stride, so to speak.”It was tough, but I’ve been here so long and my name’s been second on the depth chart for so long. Not to say that I’m used to it,” he said.The fifth-year senior had three straight strong practices the next week and won back the starting job by the time the UCLA game weekend rolled around. Price proved his worth. He punted nine times in Pasadena for an average of 40.3 yards but a more impressive three kicks that wound up inside the Bruins’ 20.”I think that this is just another moment in my career that shows the adversity and what I have to go through,” Price said. “It’s just a situation where you have to push through and overcome. And I think I was fortunate just to go back to basics.”Price’s success in 2006 came from just that. He practiced shortening his strides by placing a towel in front of him in the summer after Notre Dame’s loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. That propelled him to the top of many charts of the best senior punters. But 2007 has been more of a challenge.”The year before was just such a great year. Everything that could go right did go right,” Price said of the 2006 season. “I know there were occasional battles, but for the most part it was a great season. It was a great season all around.”Price punted 50 times in 2006 with a 45.4-yard average, six touchbacks and 12 kicks that ended up inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. This season, he has 54 punts, a 41.9-yard average, 11 inside 20 and only two touchbacks. Though his average is down, Price is happy with his fewer touchbacks and the team’s spot at No. 15 nationally in net punting – which measures not only where the punt lands but also how far it is returned, thus accounting for hang time.”Even though I’ve started off slowly, this is one thing where I can learn where I’ve overcome, I’ve kept pushing up,” Price said. “… I’ve learned how to deal with the down and I’ve pushed through it and kept going.”And he still sees the bright side of his decision to come back for a fifth year, even if his NFL prospects have not improved.”Me coming to Notre Dame was not just about playing time. I came to Notre Dame because it’s Notre Dame and there were other things I wanted to accomplish even more than just football -getting a degree, getting a well-rounded education and so forth.”But he hopes his playing days aren’t over.”I would like to potentially try the next level,” Price said. “If I make it, I make it, that’s great. But I want to just – for self justification – to say that I tried. I would like to try.”