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DOWN UNDER PUNTER SZN BACK

New Zealand punter James Evans commits to Indiana

Long before he was the head coach at Indiana, Tom Allen was a believer in the ProKick Australia punting program. Allen started recruiting the academy while serving as the special teams coordinator at Ole Miss, and he kept his connections strong once he arrived in Bloomington. Allen has already put one ProKick punter in an IU uniform, and soon he’ll have another.

Indiana landed a commitment Sunday morning from New Zealand punter James Evans, reaching Down Under to fortify its special teams unit. Evans is the seventh member of IU’s 2021 class, and the first specialist to join. He’s now on track to replace fellow ProKick alum Haydon Whitehead, Indiana’s punter since 2017. Whitehead has one year of eligibility remaining.

“Can’t wait to be a Hoosier come January and follow in the footsteps of the great Haydon Whitehead,” Evans tweeted.

Whitehead, indeed, has been a solid addition for IU. He has booted 19 punts of at least 50 yards, he’s pinned 72 punts inside the 20-yard line and he owns a 41.0 career average. Last season, Whitehead was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection. Soon, IU will be counting on similar production from Evans.

The Prokick training program has produced six of the last seven Ray Guy Award winners and 17 All-Americans.

“I learned several years ago that Australians punt the ball pretty well, so I got an Australian punter when he was special coordinator at Ole Miss and got a connection with ProKick Australia,” Allen said after signing Whitehead in 2017. “... It’s a whole different approach because, as it was explained to me when I was studying all this, the way we were raised throwing the football they’re raised kicking it to each other. So they’re comfortable with the ball and that’s just one reason why you have seen so many of those in our game collegiately, and it’s been a big push and that’s not going to change.”

In announcing his pledge to the Hoosiers, Evans also thanked Allen, IU special teams coordinator Kasey Teegardin and IU special teams quality control coach Jeff McInerney for the opportunity.

“Massive thank you to John Smith and Nathan Chapman (of ProKick) for providing me with this opportunity and taking a chance on a kid from New Zealand,” Evans tweeted. “My family and I are so grateful. Also a huge thank you to Dave Tuinauvai of Conquest Athletic Performance for preparing me both physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. Finally, to all of my family and friends, especially my parents, thank you for your constant love and support.”