Virginia landed the top-ranked kicker and punter in the nation on Tuesday evening when Memphis (Tenn.) prospect Gary Wunderlich III chose the Cavaliers over Texas A&M and Ole Miss.
Wunderlich, who is 6-foot, 180 pounds, will be a rising senior at Memphis University School, a preparatory school that is not affiliated with the city’s university. The 17-year-old was rated the nation’s No. 1 kicker and punter by Kohl’s Kicking Camps, which usually attracts the country’s best prospects.
“I called Coach [Mike] London and Coach [Larry] Lewis, and Coach [Scott] Wachenheim and told them I was coming to Virginia,” Wunderlich said in a telephone interview from his home in Memphis late Tuesday night. “They were all pretty excited. They were all glad I decided to join the family.”
London, of course, is UVa’s head coach, while Lewis is the program’s new special teams coordinator and kicking coach, while Wachenheim was the principle recruiter.
Wunderlich is a Wahoo legacy with both of his parents having met at UVa and graduated from there in 1992. His father is Gary Wunderlich Jr., who now is CEO of a stockbrokerage company in Memphis, and his mother is Jennifer Edwards.
Virginia was the first school to offer the talented kicker back in February, while Texas A&M offered him a couple of weeks later. He visited UVa twice, once in February and again about three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Wunderlich visited two SEC schools this past weekend, Ole Miss, which did not offer him a scholarship, and A&M, which did offer.
“I really liked UVa and the strong academics,” Wunderlich said. “I liked what the coaches were doing. Coach Lewis told me about how they want to get the special teams going again and that I could come in and compete for the starting job right away.”
While the opportunity for early playing time was a factor, it wasn’t the deciding one. Wunderlich said that both A&M’s returning punter and placement kicker will both be sophomores this fall.
“I just felt like I fit in better at Virginia than at A&M,” he said. “I just had that gut feeling that UVa was where I wanted to be and was ready to end the recruiting process. I knew I wanted to go there and was tired of waiting.”
Wunderlich, who is a three-star prospect by Rivals, but not yet rated by 247Sports, averaged 41.4 yards per punt last season and holds his school record for the longest punt of 69 yards.
As a kicker, he went 8-for-16 on field goals this past season and 7-for-11 as a sophomore. He will be a four-year starter this fall. His career-long field goal is 48 yards during his sophomore season.
“I wasn’t real happy with my field goal numbers this past year and I am working hard to improve on those this season,” Wunderlich said. “Last season I kicked (field goals and extra points) off a tee but right now I’m kicking off the ground and will do that this fall.”
He said he feels comfortable kicking field goals from 50 yards and in, perhaps 55, but believes he can convert from 60 yards out.
Kohl’s Kicking Camp reviews pointed out that he had “a powerful, dominant leg for kickoffs and punts,” and noted that Wunderlich also recorded a 5.0 second hang time in its December Southern Showcase. He put 60 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks last season.
He was a first-team, all-state punter in Tennessee last season and was named to the “Best of Preps” metro team by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.
Wunderlich is UVa’s fourth overall commitment to the 2014 class.