Versatile Bolser is trying his best to kick-start Towson

October 04, 1991|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

If you can't get an audience with Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, but still want to hear about the challenge of sustaining careers in both baseball and football, call Jeff Bolser.

A Towson State senior, Bolser has been one of the few bright spots in another slow football start by the Tigers (0-3), who play Indiana University of Pennsylvania (4-0) at Minnegan Stadium tomorrow (7 p.m., WITH-AM 1230, WTMD-FM 89.7).

A year after routing Towson State 42-0 and going all the way to the NCAA championship game, IUP is ranked No. 1 in Division II. The Big Indians are averaging 38.5 points, and the Tigers will need a major effort from Bolser and his teammates to beat the only Division II team on their schedule.

Bolser is one weapon coach Phil Albert doesn't want to use. The Towson State punter since his freshman season, Bolser is third in this week's Division I-AA statistics with a 46.2-yard average.

That's encouraging, but the flip side includes a struggling offense that has led Bolser to come on more than six times a game. Regrettably, he's often outkicking his teammates' punt coverage. Plus, three of his punts have gone out of bounds inside the opponents' 20-yard line, and five have gone into the end zone for touchbacks.

Still, Bolser is better than he was a year ago, and there's an easy reason for the improvement. The spring of 1991 was the first in which he practiced with the football team, because the second semester in both his freshman and sophomore years was spent pitching and playing outfield for the Towson State baseball team.

"I liked playing baseball, but I wasn't playing as much as I would have liked," Bolser said. "I also knew that wasn't helping football any. In spring practice, I was working with a snapper and against a rush every day, and I'll admit it made a difference."

This is the second straight year in which Bolser has made a significant improvement. His sophomore average was 35.9 yards, but last year he upped it to 39.5. He figures it was just part of a natural progression for someone who was a quarterback-punter, and not a punter-quarterback, at Meadowbrook High in Richmond, Va.

"I might have practiced punting once a week in high school," Bolser said. "I was a three-step punter when I got here, but I learned right away you don't get the time to do that in college. As a freshman, I worked on a two-step motion, and in my sophomore year, I worked on the drop. It all began to come together last year."

Albert wishes that had happened earlier.

"You come to college talking about playing two sports, but then you realize about the time and energy involved," Albert said. "The fact is, until this season, Jeff wasn't thinking football until he came to camp in August. He's always been capable of punting like this."

At his current pace, Bolser will set a Towson State record for punts in a season, a mark he doesn't want. He is after the Tigers' record for season average, 44.7, but knows that still won't rate him any better than second-best in the program's history, since the current record-holder, the New York Giants' Sean Landeta, is a three-time NFL All-Pro.

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