By Chuck Landon
Kase Whitehead already has made a name for himself.
Two of them, in fact.
That’s because of the spelling of Marshall’s freshman punter’s first name.
So, is it pronounced “Case” or “Casey”?
“Either one,” said Whitehead with a smile. “My mother calls me Kasey. My father calls me Kase. My second brother calls me Kasey. And, then, my oldest brother calls me Kase.
“I just hear the ‘K’ and the ‘s’ on it and whether it’s Kasey or Kase. ... “
Of course, all these name games could have been settled if his parents just had put a ‘y’ on the end of his first name.
“Yep, but nope they couldn’t do that,” the former William Blount Governor said. “They had to be too complicated about things.”
Which leads us to Marshall football assistant coach Jerad Smith’s anecdote at media day Monday.
“I told Kase Whitehead I didn’t know if his name was pronounced ‘Case’ or ‘Casey’?” said Smith, who is the Herd’s special teams coordinator. “He said, ‘Coach, I don’t care as long as you know I’m the starting punter.’
“You’ve got to like his confidence.”
The Herd coaching staff, apparently, also loves Whitehead’s leg. The former William Blount High School star will indeed be the starting punter when Marshall hosts Illinois State in the 2008 opener on Saturday.
Whitehead locked up the job with a freakish, 76-punt, under duress, at a recent practice.
When Whitehead learned what Smith had told the media, he was aghast.
“Coach Smith told me he said that,” said the 5-foot-10, 181-pound punter. “I was like, ‘Oh, great. Now, everybody will think I’m really, really confident and cocky.’
“I was really worried after he told me that.”
He shouldn’t be. It’s not cocky if you can back it up.
And Whitehead is certain to get every opportunity to back it up, considering he’s the only scholarship punter on a team that doesn’t have a punter.
“Yes sir, it’s open for the taking,” said Whitehead. “Me and Cody Ochoa (sophomore walk-on from Fork Union Military Academy) and Tyler Warner (true freshman walk-on from Parkersburg) are all competing against each other. It’s the three of us.”
If Whitehead is going to separate himself from the competition, the key for him is accuracy.
“I think the greatest strength I have in punting is my ability to place the ball in the corner or particular points on the field where the coach wants it,” he said.
“I have pretty good accuracy.”
And his leg ain’t too shabby, either.
“My senior year in high school I averaged 46.7 yards,” said Whitehead, who was the first player in William Blount High School history to earn a Division I scholarship.
“I feel pretty strong. My average should be at least the same this year. ... 45 yards.”
Now, I know why Marshall offered him a scholarship. Which is exceedingly rare unless your last name is Colquitt.
“If you really think about,” said Whitehead, “schools have punters and kickers for three or four years until they need to offer another one, so you really have to look at who needs a new one.
“Then, you’ve got to hit those schools hard and hope they take a liking to you.”
That’s why Marshall grabbed his attention.
“I had a lot of letters at the end of my junior year from Marshall,” said Whitehead. “My father and I had talked to the coaches a couple of times on the phone. They told us the situation.
“I was excited to get offered by them and I committed right away.”
Or is that pronounced Kasey?