Before Jan. 21, the only thing Clermont (Florida) East Ridge kicker Zach Block knew about Tulane was that it was in the American Athletic Conference.
He’d never heard from the Green Wave coaches. He’d never been to New Orleans. And he had no idea what the school’s kicking situation was like.
Then he received a phone call on a Wednesday from assistant coach Aaron Price asking him to take an official visit, starting a whirlwind process. He and his parents arrived in the Crescent City two days later, and he committed to Tulane on Jan. 24.
“It was all pretty quick,” Block said. “I was pretty shocked that it happened.”
Block, a National Honor Society member, said Tulane recruited him as a punter but offered him the opportunity to compete for the placekicking job next fall as well. Senior punter Peter Picerelli returns as a three-year starter and likely will hold on to his job even though his average dropped to a career-low 37.7 yards in 2014 from 41.5 as a sophomore and 41.0 as a freshman.
Kicker Andrew DiRocco’s job is much less secure after he went 8 for 15 on field goals and missed two extra points in a rough freshman debut. Block, who graded out better at a placekicker than he did as a punter at some of the kicking camps he attended, will get a shot to show what he can do in the preseason.
He said he went 4 for 6 on field goals for East Ridge last season, adding he had range of up to 55 yards.
“They (Tulane’s coaches) said if I beat (DiRocco) out, I’d more than likely be the kicker next year,” he said.
Block admitted his punting was more of a work in progress. Kohl’s Kicking, the No. 1 evaluator of kicking prospects in the country, rated him the 21st-best punter and the 11th best kicking prospect in the 2015 recruiting class.
“All aspects (of his punting) are pretty good, but none of them are outstanding,” he said. “I averaged around 40 or 41 yards last year out of about 70 punts.”
Recently, though, Block won the punting competition at Kohl’s National Senior Challenge from Jan. 17-18 at Bishop Moore High School in Orlando.
Three days later, Tulane called. He had not received any scholarship offers to that point but said he had attracted interest from Miami and Florida as a potential walk-on.
Tulane’s offer trumped those possibilities, making his decision easy.
“I got down there, and I really liked the school campus,” he said. “I liked how small it was and how the class sizes would be small, too.”
Block is Tulane’s 16th commitment. The Wave offered him a scholarship after Bentonville (Arkansas) High School kicker Bennett Moehring committed to Navy. Moehring took an official visit to Tulane on Jan. 16-17.
Up in the air
Tulane is looking to close with big-name commitments by National Signing Day on Feb. 4.
Leeward Brown, a 6-foot-3, 345-pound offensive guard from Miramar (Florida) High who de-committed from Miami in November, took an official visit this weekend, tweeting that he was “vibing in New Orleans” when he arrived Friday. He is the No. 54 offensive line recruit in the country, according to Rivals.com and also is considering Louisville and Temple.
Tulane is still waiting for word on John Curtis safety Hunter Dale, who visited last weekend. Rivals.com rates him the 32nd-best defensive back in the country and the 21st-best prospect at any position in Louisiana.
Dale, who remains uncommitted, has offers from more than 20 schools, including Miami, Arizona State, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Block was Dale’s roommate on their official visit but had no real insight on how he was leaning.
“I know he really liked his visit,” Block said. “It’s home to him, but I don’t what he’s going to do.”
Another strong possibility is McDonogh 35 wide receiver Darius Williams, a two-star recruit who also visited last weekend. Temple is Williams’ biggest suitor besides Tulane.