COLUMN: Punter Brady Buell is paramount to beating Badgers

Central Michigan punter Brady Buell prepares to kick in practice Sept. 3 at the East Grass Field.

Do you know the name Brady Buell? 

If not, it’s time to be introduced. He’ll be the single most influential player on the Central Michigan football team in their Sept. 7 matchup against Wisconsin at 3:30 p.m.

Brady Buell is the punter. 

A redshirt sophomore, Buell didn’t see any game action in his first two years at CMU. He backed up Jack Sheldon, a three-year starter. 

Sheldon graduated after the 2018 season, leaving the starting duties open. Buell won the job in the offseason and made the first start of his collegiate career in CMU’s Week One 38-21 win over Albany on August 29.

The Chippewas punted only twice last Thursday, so Buell’s debut was rather short-lived. The sample size of his punts is extremely limited, which is both a bad and good thing for me as a journalist. 

The limited data set is a bad thing because Buell’s average of 38.0 yards per punt means pretty much nothing. What’s nice though is that it means I can go into a little detail on both of those punts.

Buell’s first punt of the night came with just under 10 minutes to play in the first quarter. From the CMU 44-yard-line, it was a prime opportunity to pin the Great Danes deep and give the Chippewas great field position on their next offensive possession.

Instead, the punt sailed out-of-bounds, and the ball was placed at the Albany 32 for a 24-yard punt.

"It looked like a couple of my (golf) drives -- he kinda shanked it a little bit," head coach Jim McElwain said with a big grin on his face. "But then he came back later and... hit a bomb."

With 3:45 remaining in the first half, Buell redeemed himself in a big way. 

His heels on the goal line of the end zone, Buell sent a booming punt from the CMU 13 that sent the Albany returner into a steep backpedal. The ball hung in the air long enough for redshirt freshman gunner Montrae Braswell to sprint 50 yards and make an outstanding solo tackle before the returner could make a move. Buell’s punt had a net of 52 yards.

Central Michigan punter Brady Buell watches the ball soar after a kick in practice Sept. 3 at the East Grass Field.

Against a team like Albany, the Chippewas could afford a subpar punt or gamble on fourth down, and they knew that going in. 

Wisconsin, however, is a different story. 

I cannot overstate just how important field position will be for CMU against the Badgers. If Wisconsin junior quarterback Jack Coan only has 50 or 60 yards to drive for a touchdown on a consistent basis, I’m sorry, but the Chippewas won’t stand a chance. 

The Badgers have so many offensive weapons. Wideouts A.J. Taylor, Quintus Cephus, Kendric Pryor, and Danny Davis are all extremely talented and will stretch the CMU defensive backs to their limits. 

And don’t even get me started on junior tailback Jonathan Taylor, who had 183 total yards and 4 touchdowns against South Florida in Week One.

If CMU can force Wisconsin to make drives of 75 or 80 yards throughout the game, I really think we’re in for a good game. 

Buell is the one that can keep the Chippewas in it. He just has to perform with consistency.

He’s definitely capable of doing it, too. At St. Francis High School in Traverse City, Buell was a Division 7-8 Associated Press All-State punter as a senior and was ranked the No. 10 kicker in his class by Kornblue Kicking. Nine of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard-line and five were downed inside the 5-yard-line.

To beat the Badgers, Buell is the key.