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Football: UL’s Cadona reaches higher level as punter

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, September 19, 2014



UL punter Daniel Cadona (48) continues to reel in the awards. (Photo: Paul Kieu/The Advertiser)



A year and change after his American football debut, UL’s Daniel Cadona is getting the hang of things.

And it has little to do with how to put on pads or snap on his helmet tight.

“Last year I was kind of raw, and early in the season I was a little naïve to what it was to play a full season,” said Cadona, the Ragin’ Cajun punter who hails from Australia. “But this season I feel a lot more confident.

“I enjoy it a lot more, especially the big occasion. Last year I used to get a lot more nervous than what I do this year, and now I just embrace it.”

It’s showing, too.

Cadona goes into Saturday’s non-conference visit to Boise State coming off an outing last Saturday at now-No. 10 Ole Miss that led to him winning multiple awards.

He was named national Punter of the Week by the Ray Guy Award and College Football Performance Awards, and was named Special Teams Player of the Week by both the Sun Belt Conference and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

Cadona averaged 51.1 yards on his seven punts in a 56-15 loss to the Rebels, with the first six all going 50 yards or farther.

The senior had a long of 61 yards in Oxford (he had a 77-yarder earlier this season vs. Southern), dropped three inside the 20-yard line, didn’t have any touchbacks (something he’s been focusing on) and had one punt that went out of bounds at the 5 and led to a late-game Cajun safety.

“Last year I didn’t really understand the game too much … and I kind of just went out there and punted the ball,” said Cadona, who is averaging 49.3 yards on 15 punts this season.

That leads the Sun Belt, ranks fourth in the nation and is 7.6 yards longer than the former Aussie Rules football player averaged in his first year playing the American game for UL.

“Now I’ve got more of a chance to do different kicks at different stages of the field,” Cadona said, “and I kind of understand what the team is going through and what the best outcome would be from punting.

“So I do understand the game a lot more, and what it entails. I think that’s helped me, and it’s made a lot more confident.”

Cadona will pooch punt Aussie-style, getting the ball to spin backward, when he has to. When wind is in his face like it was in the second and third quarters at Ole Miss, he knows to keep the ball lower. And when the wind’s behind him, he lets it go and tries to get added roll.

Cadona also understands now that punting seven times and having to punt so frequently from so deep is not exactly a good thing.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” he said. “Obviously the more we punt, the offense isn’t working right.

“Hopefully if I can do a few punts here and there to pin them (opponents) deep and then if we can get the ball back straightaway it gives our team the best chance to win the (field-position) battle.

“I’ll just do whatever the team needs me to do,” Cadona added, “and hopefully stay off the field more than I’m on it.”

Cadona also has an Aussie-style spin on what it will take for 1-2 UL to shake its early season blues, starting with Saturday’s visit to the fabled blue turf of Boise State.

“The team is pretty disappointed we’ve dropped two in a row,” he said. “But we acknowledge that Ole Miss is a really good team.

“Our execution hasn’t quite been there, but I believe that everyone is putting in effort and we’re working as hard as we never have in the film room and also on practice.

“So it’s kind of just (a matter of) the team jelling and clicking, and sort finding our niche,” Cadona added, “and then hopefully the floodgates will open and we’ll chalk up a few wins.”

Just like for himself personally, Cadona seems to believe that confidence correlates directly to future success.

“I just think it’s gonna take maybe a couple of big plays,” he said, “and a lot of players to accept … leadership and buy into it.

“We have good leaders, but it’s probably got to come from a whole team aspect, and not just leave it to a few senior guys.

“If we keep battling away,” Cadona added, “I’m pretty sure it will click sooner rather than later.”