Bison’s LeCompte continues tradition of strong punters
FARGO — The undisputed, without-a-doubt distinction as the best golfer of any North Dakota State special teams player in the Division I era goes to former punter Matt Voigtlander.
“That man can shoot a scratch game in a pair of Crocs,” said Ben LeCompte. “I’ve seen it.”
LeCompte isn’t too bad himself, although not yet in the neighborhood of shooting par. These days, he’s NDSU’s ace in the hole as another top-notch punter in what is becoming a steady line of them. With the move to Division I have come more scholarships, and more opportunity to invest in kickers and punters.
LeCompte is picking up where Voigtlander, John Prelvitz and Mike Dragosavich left off.
“I would love to carry on the legacy of good punters here,” LeCompte said. “I knew that when I came in that Dragosavich and Prelvitz were All-Americans and Voigtlander had a great season. I’m filling big shoes.”
The sophomore is filling them this year with a 43.5-yard average that ranks him 14th in the Division I FCS statistics. More impressive: Of his 31 punts, 14 have landed inside the 20-yard line.
More importantly, the Bison lead the country in punt return defense giving up just minus-2 yards in return yards all season. Opponents have only had the opportunity to return three punts in eight games. As a contrast, NDSU has returned 17 punts for 319 yards.
He’s a defensive coordinator’s best friend.
“That turns a game around,” said long snapper Michael Murphy. “When we turn the field over, it makes it a lot easier for the defense with special teams making big plays.”
There wasn’t much in LeCompte’s high school punting statistics in Barrington, Ill., that had D-I standout written on it. He averaged 36 yards a punt.
There’s more to that story, however. LeCompte was better known as a defensive back who set a school record for interceptions in a game. He was considering cornerback options at the Division II level until about the middle of his senior season.
Iowa State wanted him as a walk-on punter. NDSU wanted him. Period.
He was first contacted by Bison assistant coach Scott Fuchs. Assistants Tim Polasek and Nick Goeser made in-school visits.
“And then when I saw the way Fargo treated their football team, that just stole me away,” LeCompte said.
Perhaps a major connection also was the Kohl’s Professional Camps based in Waukesha, Wis., that specializes in punters and kickers. The Bison have had success in the past with Kohl’s graduates like former kicker Ryan Jastram and current kicker Adam Keller.
LeCompte first attended a Kohl camp as a high school sophomore. Improvement came at a steady clip, but has flourished since coming to NDSU and concentrating on the trade full-time.
“He went from a guy who you weren’t sure was going to be a college specialist to a guy who could be a Division I specialist,” said Jamie Kohl, one of the founders of the Kohl’s camps. “I don’t think any of us realized how good Ben was going to become. But he had a special excitement when he was training and you could see he was going to be good.”
LeCompte is still a regular Kohl’s camper who’s worked his way into mentoring younger kids at the Kohl’s camps. This summer at a camp in Whitewater, Wis., he also showed he can compete with anybody in the country.
He was a competition winner of about 100 punters that included players from major FBS programs.
“There were six or seven from the SEC, all the Big 12 punters and just me from the Missouri Valley,” LeCompte said. “It made me realize that a 50-yard punt in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is a 50-yard punt in Fargo.”
Kohl said he wasn’t surprised, pointing to LeCompte’s work ethic.
“He’s a gamer,” Kohl said. “He’s a guy as a college coach you can trust. That’s the important thing.”
Also important: LeCompte kicks off for NDSU. His high “pooch” kicks prevented Kansas State from mounting a kickoff return threat in the season opener.
He’s come a long way from averaging 36 yards a punt in high school.
“He’s improved a lot even from last year to this year,” Murphy said. “He puts it in spots where it needs to be. We take it very serious because it’s a huge part of the game.”