Alex Garoutte began the 2013 season with the singular task of kicking off. Garoutte’s effort on the kickoff has proved a valuable tool, especially in a high scoring Arizona State offense and his efforts resulted in 43-percent of his kickoffs to date going for touchbacks. Additionally, he proved the well-roundness of his skills collecting three special teams tackles.
“It’s hard to be interested in statistics with our scheme,” Garoutte said, “I mean I would love to have 100-percent touchbacks and I’m sure they would too, but it’s not realistic with how we do things.”
Stepping into a narrowed role has allowed Garoutte to concentrate solely on one aspect of the game while trying to balance an attitude more focused on the success of the team versus his own.
“It’s not always easier doing one,” Garoutte confessed. I want to be able to be on the field as much as possible.”
The former Phoenix Brophy product got his wish, when he found himself learning yet another way to kick the pigskin. Garoutte stepped into the role as the team’s punter in the Sun Devils’ victory over the USC Trojans after the team’s duo of punters, true freshman Matt Haack and walk-on junior Dom Vizzare failed early in the season to provide adequate field position with their punts.
“It was kind of just that we got to the point that we tried something knew, because what we had wasn’t the best,” Garoutte recalled.
In efforts to address a potent Trojan punt returner in wide receiver Marqise Lee, the coaches implemented a rugby style punt method for Garoutte and due to its success that scheme has continued ever since.
“We always had always a little bit of a rugby thing in there,” Garoutte explained, “and when they saw me do it for the first time they realized that I would work and could help them.”
It is working; and it’s also giving Garoutte an opportunity to help his team on the road to a possible Pac-12 South championship. The effectiveness of the unique punt really boils down to limiting the opportunities of the punt returner and coverage.
“The returner doesn’t get the ball. They never get to return, so wherever the ball ends up is pretty much how far the punt was.” Garoutte noted. “Also, time is never an issue. First off, when it takes you three seconds to get the ball off as opposed to two it adds a second for the gunners to get down there and cover; so it really helps from the coverage aspect.”
Yet, in Thursday night’s 55-21 win over Washington State, Garoutte pulled out another stop; when he faked a punt and ran for 19-yards and a first down with a block from Will Sutton.
“I’d seen it a couple times where Will (Sutton) did a really good job shielding that guy out,” Garoutte recalled. “It looked exactly like I saw in practice so I just went for it. It was kind of just instinct. Once I got to a certain point I just went; just ran.”
After a 2012 season where he converted just 6 of 11 field goals, Garoutte says that he didn’t see his performance Thursday, or even his play this season for that matter, as necessarily redeeming.
“I was just going out there playing and having fun,” Garoutte said.
Though Garoutte isn’t putting points on the scoreboard by splitting the uprights, based off of his rapidly expanding role and success on special teams; his preparation, focus and determination to regain an influential role has paid off.
Looking back at the juncture when he expanded his roles, Garoutte claimed that his approach from week to week hadn’t modified.
“It didn’t really change anything for me,” Garoutte said. “I still prepared the same. I went out there and tried to be the best that I can be to help this team.”