Darragh O'Neill set multiple single-season individual records in the Colorado football program in 2012.

Usually a player having that kind of success is a reason for celebration, but not in this case.

He's the punter.

"As long as I keep doing my job and doing the best I think I can, I'm fine with taking a few records," O'Neill said Monday. "But at the end of the day, some of those were just the law-of-averages records."

The Colorado offense wasn't very effective last season, which meant O'Neill was often pretty busy on game days. He almost couldn't help but set a few records with the number of times he was asked to give the ball to the other team.

O'Neill tied the record for most punts in a season with 76. He set a new record for punting yards in a season at 3,307, but even that wasn't anything to get excited over. He had set the previous record as a freshman in 2011 when he punted 74 times for 3,152 yards. He set the record for longest punt with the non-kicking foot when he booted a 61-yarder left-footed at Arizona. He kicks comfortably with either foot.

Perhaps his most notable achievement was setting the school record with 25 punts inside the 20-yard line. At least that helped give the CU defense a fighting chance. He finished third in the Pac-12 in punting and 18th nationally, averaging 43.5 yards per kick, and was named honorable mention all-conference.


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It's actually a pretty solid start to a football career that began when he joined the team as a walk-on prior to the 2011 season. He had played the sport only briefly early in his high school career as a wide receiver.

"The records that would be the most fun would be to put up a few wins here in the last few years that I have left," O'Neill said.

There are some records O'Neill would be proud to own and he has a shot at them over the next two seasons. He would like to finish his career as the career leader in net-punting average and with the most punts inside the 20. He also wouldn't mind the single-season net-punting record.

O'Neill said those records are more representative of the positive way punters impact a football team and he would be honored to be mentioned along with former CU punters such as Barry Helton, Mark Mariscal, Tom Rouen and John Torp who hold some of those marks now.

With a new coaching staff in place, including special teams coordinator Tony Neinas, O'Neill says he is enjoying the new approach to the kicking game. He is hoping it helps him reach a higher level of performance.

Neinas spends the entire practice working with kickers, punters, snappers and holders because he doesn't coach another position. Special teams has never received that kind of priority status previously at CU.

"It's a huge difference having our own coach," O'Neill said. "We are working on smaller things now. Instead of just saying, 'Oh, I kicked bad or I kicked good' this day, we're kind of given reasons why. I think there is a lot more refining of our kicking and punting that we're able to do with a special teams coach that we just didn't have the time to do under the last guys cause J.D. Brookhart was obviously our special teams coach but he was also the tight ends coach. We just have the time now that we didn't have before."

O'Neill is competing for the punting duties with D.J. Wilhelm, a transfer from Northern Iowa, who was on the roster last season but did not see any action. O'Neill said he doesn't spend time worrying about who he is competing against or the possibility of not being the starter.

"I compete against myself to be one of the best punters in the country next year, not just the best punter on this team."

O'Neill is also hoping to expand his responsibilities this year. He has been practicing as a holder for the field goal team all spring and would like to take the job over from wide receiver Justin Gorman, who has done most of the holding that past two seasons.

"He's been a really good holder for us the past two years, but I think coaches Neinas really puts an emphasis on kind of keeping the special duties within the special teams room," O'Neill said.

When he first gave the holder job a try last year, O'Neill said he wasn't real comfortable with it, but hundreds of repetitions later he likes it. He said he feels more confident with it each day.

So how would he expect to feel with 3 seconds remaining in the season opener against Colorado State with 70,000 fans screaming and the Buffs lining up for a game-winning 40-yard field goal attempt?

"I definitely think I'll feel fine," O'Neill said. "I don't think the amount of people has ever affected how I've done. I've always felt like the more people there are, the more pumped up you are and for me that just means more focus. I think I perform better in those situations than I do when nobody is watching."

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