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The 2019 Big Ten Position Breakdowns: Holders

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Everyone knows that the holder is the single most consequential player on the field. Let’s rank them!

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a more unheralded position in all of football than the holder? While the skill players get all the glory, and the lineman have all the fun, the holder is always on the sideline with his trusty long snapper sharpening his muscle memory just so his kicker can get a pat on the back from all his teammates and coaches. With the OTE mantra of “punting is winning”, even the lowly punters are getting the praise they deserve. I dare say that there is no player in the history of football-nay, SPORT itself, that does so much for so li--what? Most of the holders are also punters? Whatever, let’s just start the listicle. Your 2019 Big Ten holders, ranked:

1) Colten Rastetter- The Dual Threat

Am I favoring the Hawkeye as one of the resident Iowa “writers” at OTE? I’m going to ignore that question. In 2018 Colten led the Iowa field goal unit to a fantastic 8 for 9 on field goal attempts over 40 yards. He was a machine on extra points, allowing Miguel Recinos to hit a perfect 47 in 47 attempts last year. What really sets Colten apart from the crowd is his success as a dual-threat holder. If you need to run a fake field goal, Rastetter is your guy. His career passing statistics are 4-4, 44 yds, 1TD. Here he is dropping a dime into traffic at Happy Valley.

And who could forget his famous Polecat against Ohio State?

He can beat you with his howitzer arm, or he can beat you by daintily spinning the ball around on the ground so the laces are facing outwards, either way he’s an unstoppable scoring machine.

2) Blake Hayes- The Wonder From Down Under

Only Michigan’s Will Hart took more snaps at holder than Blake Hayes last year, but Hayes finds his niche in the difficult art of distance holding. Illinois connected on 4 field goals of over 50 yards, while no other team in the conference had more than 3 attempts. Long field goals are a skill that only the best holders can master. Everything has to be perfect. If the laces are slightly cockeyed a close field goal is possible, but a distance shot is almost always going wide. Long field goals have to be kicked at a lower trajectory to cover the extra distance, but this also makes them much easier for the defense to block, so speed in getting the snap pulled down is everything. Hayes may have grown up in the blazing heat of the Australian outback, but he’s got pure ice water in his veins. Illinois’ goal is to be bowl eligible this season and they’re going to go as far as their holder can take them.

3) Will Hart- No Relation

Will Hart is a workhorse for the Harbaugh machine; no team in the Big Ten relies on their holder more than the Wolverines. Hart was called on to take the snap for 27 field goals and an incredible 51 extra points (which is amazing when you consider that once again they didn’t even play in the B1G championship game). The Wolverines will be looking to finish second place in the East division again, and fans can rest assured that that they’ve got one of the nation’s best holding down the fort--and the ball--on every field goal attempt.

4) Isaac Armstrong- AKA Tommy Legpunt

Fans in Lincoln are no strangers to watching a player named Armstrong punt the ball downfield. However, unlike former Husker QB Tommy, Isaac punts with his leg and not his arm. The walk-on from Lincoln Southwest High School will make all the difference this year in his primary duty as the team’s holder. With Scott Frost looking to take his team back to the land of bowl eligibility, Isaac will once again be called upon to be a consistent option on the field goal team that he led to a very solid 12/13 on field goals under 40 yards last season.

5) Brian Lewerke- [to the tune of Foreigner] Red Box Zero

Lewerke had a very solid season as the team’s holder last year, but it was tarnished when he dropped a crucial hold in the 4th quarter of the Redbox Bowl that would’ve given the Spartans the win over Oregon. Even though Lewerke threw the game away with his poor performance as the team’s holder, Dantonio is sticking by his man in 2019. You can’t really blame him when you look at the stats: Brian was the special teams field general for a team that converted nearly 85.7% of its field goals and 100% of its extra points. With the holder position locked down, Dantonio only needs to find a quarterback to become a serious contender in the East.

6) Max Bortenschlager- Hands of Gold, Ankles of Glass

Bortenschlager had a very promising year as the ace holder for the Terrapins before suffering a season ending ankle injury. Fans are hopeful that he’ll be able to jump in and pick up where he left off, but it remains unknown how his surgically repaired ankle will hold up under pressure of, you know having to sit on a knee and set the football down the right way and stuff

7) Drew Conrad- The Future YouTube Star

Hoosier Holder Drew Conrad showed off his trick shot holding skills on BTN last year.

He’s got plenty of swagger and the only reason he’s not higher on my list is that Indiana didn’t call on him to hold the ball all that often, as last year he only netted 18 field goal and 33 extra point attempts. Still, he helped make 15 of those field goals and Indiana should feel confident if they need to call on him more often in 2019.

8 ) Jacob Herbers- The First Baseman

The 2017 Mortell Holder of the Year Award finalist took a step backwards in 2018. While known for his laser focus and perfect cadence on extra point attempts, Herbers struggled in Columbus as the Gophers squandered an opportunity to get their first win against the Buckeyes since 2000. With backup holder Alex Melvin hot on his tail, Herbers will have to return to his 2017 form if he wants to keep his starting spot on PJ Fleck’s field goal squad.

9) Jake Herr- Herrndre the Giant

Carmel, Indiana’s own Jake Herr will be trying to fill the big shoes Joe Schopper left behind when he takes over as the Boilermakers’ starting holder. Herr has yet to see the field, but his 6-5, 230 pound frame makes him one of the biggest holders in the conference. If he can put his large frame (and hands) to good use, he could find himself making the OTE All-B1G team in 2019.

10) Cole Murphy- From Last Chance U to Last Place U

Cole is something of a journeyman for Rutgers. He came in as a JUCO transfer quarterback, but was quickly converted to wide receiver before finding his niche and earning a scholarship as the team’s holder. Why is he so low on this list? Well he was part of a Rutgers offense that hardly scored any points last year. Should we be putting all the failures of a Chris Ash offense squarely on the shoulders of his holder? Mostly no, but Murphy was only called on to hold the ball a measly 31 times combined between field goals and extra points-that is not a number that inspires confidence. If Chris Ash wants to keep his job, he’ll need to find ways to get Cole on the field more (on his knee as a holder, that is..)

11) Drue Chrisman- The Flipmaster

Chrisman came to Ohio State as the #1 ranked punter in the 2016 recruiting class and has so far lived up to the hype. However, he has struggled at times in his primary role as the Buckeyes’ holder. Chrisman’s motion is fluid and natural when pulling down extra points, leading his team to an amazing 76 successful conversions (for perspective, only two other holders in the conference had more than 50). As the ball moves further away from the goalposts, Chrisman’s stats get harder and harder to defend. Chrisman’s field goal unit only managed to hit 72% of their field goal attempts, making them the 12th worst unit in the conference. If there’s reason to be hopeful, it’s that Drue has been improving his hand movement and fine motor skills in the offseason with the ancient art of bottle flipping, which he’s hoping will lead to more success in 2019.

12) TJ Green- Trent Green’s Son

Northwestern will be replacing senior holder Jake Collins, who captained one of the worst field goal units in the conference last year. Trent Green’s Son hasn’t seen much action at holder, but the fact that he was never able to take the starting spot from the struggling Collins in 2018 speaks volumes. He isn’t ready for the big time, but as the team’s only scholarship holder Pat Fitzgerald has no other choice than to play him. Unless Trent Green’s Son spent the offseason MonStar-ing the great Peter Mortell’s talent, he may find himself relegated to playing another position in the Northwestern offense.

13) Connor Allen- The Scapegoat

Connor Allen is coming off of a disastrous 2018 campaign. His (probably) crooked laces cost the Badgers a chance for overtime against BYU in September. His field goal team was the lone dark spot in an otherwise successful Pinstripe Bowl against Miami where they got zero points from two first half field goals. Allen’s field goal unit finished the year an abysmal 10/18 on field goal attempts. A similar start to 2019 could see Allen quickly lose his job to backup Anthony Lotti.

14) Blake Gillikin- The Billiken

The story of Penn State in 2018 is one of missed opportunities-and field goals. Under Blake Gillikin’s leadership, the Nittany Lions missed 8 field goals and 2 extra points on the year. A botched 46 yarder cost them the game against Ohio State. He failed to hold for another crucial field goal against Michigan State two weeks later. In fact, Gillikin’s squad was successful on less than half of their field goal attempts over 40 yards. I’m not sure if he’s letting himself get distracted by his secondary job as the team’s punter, or if this is just another case of James Franklin trying to force a square peg to fit inside a round hole, but something isn’t right. Remember the name of Penn State’s backup holder: Michael Shuster. He’s a dark horse candidate to steal the starting job before conference play starts.

Poll

Who will win B1G holder of the year

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Some punter
    (26 votes)
  • 26%
    Lol I forgot Brian Lewerke took a dive in the Redbox Bowl
    (28 votes)
  • 7%
    Aren’t they interchangeable?
    (8 votes)
  • 28%
    Wait did you say Chris Ash wasn’t fired yet?
    (31 votes)
  • 13%
    BORTENSCHLAGER
    (14 votes)
107 votes total Vote Now