When no. 92 lines up to punt the football this season for the Arkansas Razorbacks, very few Hog fans will have heard of the “punter from down under.”
Meet Arkansas punter Sam Irwin-Hill.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior ambidextrous punter, who grew up playing Australian rules football from Bendingo, Australia, signed with Arkansas in February after two successful seasons in the junior college ranks at City College of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA). Irwin-Hill earned All-American honors as a sophomore last season, punting 44 times, averaging 46.1 yards a punt with a long of 77 yards, with 15 punts downed inside the 15-yard line. He received other scholarship offers last season from Miami, Utah State and Louisiana Tech. He committed to Arkansas after his first and lone visit in his recruitment to Fayetteville.
A top-level punter, Irwin-Hill came to the U.S. after he was urged by Nathan Chapman, his coach at Pro Kick Australia, that he had the potential of making it to the NFL if he was seen in the American collegiate ranks first. Irwin-Hill trained as part of Pro Kick Australia, a group that has a reputation of sending Australian kickers to major American college football programs. Kickers accepted into the program go through a rigorous 12-month training program. Notable alumni of the program are current Memphis kicker Tom Hornsey, Ohio State punter Cameron Johnston, Minnesota punter Christian Eldred and former LSU punter Brad Wing and former Hawaii punter Alex Dunnachie.
With Arkansas losing senior punter Dylan Breeding after last season, Irwin-Hill was brought in to solidify the punter position, but Arkansas defensive line/special teams coordinator Charlie Partridge is looking at All-American caliber senior kicker Zach Hocker to be the lone kicker in the kicking game for the Hogs this season. This was due to Hocker boasting phenomenal results through spring and summer camp. Also, Irwin-Hill was a late arrival on campus as he moved in and enrolled at Arkansas on Aug. 4.
It is still unclear to how the Hogs will use the rugby-style Irwin-Hill this season as either the starting punter or possible situational punter.
Bret Bielema and the rest of the Arkansas coaches have been raving about his ability to down the football inside the 10 and his ability to get the ball off quickly, as he had no blocked punts last season at City College of San Francisco.
The addition of Sam-Irwin Hill at punter won’t write an immediate success story it did for Alex Collins, but with Arkansas playing their conservative run-based offense, his powerful leg should be able to flip field position for a very young and inexperienced defense come this season.
Very few have ever heard of his name. But don’t feel bad — Sam Irwin-Hill wants to keep it that way … for now.
Maybe he’ll catch the Gators napping like that other famous Aussie named Irwin did. Or was his name Brad Wing?