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Countdown to Virginia Football: #18 Nicholas Conte’s big leg could send a message to the ACC

Virginia Media Relations

Position: P
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 225
Year: Redshirt Senior
Hometown: Roanoke

I was wrong. A few years ago, when we last did these roster profiles, I suggested that James Coleman was the likely successor to Alec Vozenilek at punter. In my defense, this was an understandable conclusion based on the fact that Coleman had more experience punting and was, by all accounts, ahead of Nicholas Conte on the depth chart. And Coleman actually got into a game in 2013, while Conte did not.

However, we now know that Conte won the job and Coleman is no longer on the football team (though his brother, Lester, is). Last year, Conte punted 52 times for 44.7 yards per punt. That was good for 1st in the ACC and 14th in the nation. He had 14 downed inside the 20, with only 5 touchbacks. Nearly a third (15) of his punts went more than 50 yards. By just about any measure, Conte was a very good punter last year.

Conte did have 1 punt blocked. And, though Conte was 14th in the nation in punting, the Hoos were just 44th in the nation in net punting. That is because they were 60th in punt return defense, giving up nearly 8 yards per return. Was this because the coverage teams were bad, or because Conte was out-kicking the coverage? Or both?

The most interesting thing about Conte is that he learned his craft by watching YouTube videos. Many people learn things from watching YouTube. For example, I learned how to fold a fitted sheet. (I still can’t do it, but I did learn how.) I doubt very many people learn how to punt from youtube. And those who did probably don’t find themselves getting a college education out of it.

Conte played just 1 year of high school football. Here is his highlight reel:

Yep, it’s just what you’d expect. Three and a half minutes of punts. What can we learn from this video? Not much. For one thing, it was almost 5 years ago. Conte is undoubtedly a better punter now than he was then. We do get to see him corral a couple of poor snaps and still get the punt off with no trouble. So we learn that Conte has good hands.

In fact, Conte is a very good athlete. He was all-district in lacrosse (as a defender) and was also a swimmer. And at 6’3” 225, he’s certainly capable of handling himself on the field. He rushed twice last year for 20 yards. I don’t know if he can throw also, but I wouldn’t put it past this coaching staff to run a fake punt or two this year. They have little to lose and it would help send a message to the rest of the ACC.

The Hoos’ special teams have been an unmitigated disaster for most of the past decade. Now, there’s a new coaching staff in place, and a real special teams coordinator who seems intent on correcting that. Having a senior punter with a big leg will certainly help.