Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Top 25 special teams snubs
By ESPN.com staff
You may have noticed the preseason top 25 list lacked any special teams players. I don't mean to downplay their impact -- they quite obviously have plenty of influence on games' outcomes -- but players should be on the field more than a few plays per game to warrant inclusion into the conference's best.
Here's the conference's top performers in the game of football's special third.
1. Alex Henery, K/P, Nebraska
Henery made a strong case for co-MVP of the Big 12 Championship even with Ndamukong Suh's dominant performance going down in history on the same night. Henery booted four field goals, including a 42-yarder to take the lead with 1:44 to play. He also helped the Huskers play the field position game with eight punts for an average of 37 yards -- two inside the 20. On the season, Henery averaged over 41 yards on his Big 12-most 77 punts, pinning opponents inside the 20 on 26 occasions, more than any other punter in the league. He also made 24 of 28 field goals with all four misses coming from beyond 40 yards, including three attempts of longer than 50.
2. Grant Ressel, K, Missouri
Ressel connected on 26 of 27 field goals in his first season as starter. After entering preseason camp as the No. 2 kicker for the Tigers, he finished as the nation's most accurate kicker. His impressive debut earned him first-team All-American honors by Sports Illustrated and first-team All-Big 12 by the coaches and media. Came to the team as a walk-on, but was given a scholarship after the 2009 season, which featured his game-winning kick to end the regular season against Kansas. His only miss of the season came on a 43-yarder against Nebraska in a downpour at Faurot Field. Henery and Ressel could both be finalists for the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker, but beating out UCLA's Kai Forbath will be difficult.
3. Tress Way, P, Oklahoma
Way led the Big 12 in punting average, with 45.7 yards per kick on 61 punts as a freshman, the second-highest average in school history. He posted a school-record 22 punts longer than 50 yards, nine of longer than 60 and another two over 70 yards, highlighted by a 74-yarder against Oklahoma State. His efforts helped Oklahoma finish No. 2 in punt return defense nationally (1.8 yards per return) and fifth in net punting (40.3 yards per kick).
4. Quinn Sharp, P/KOS, Oklahoma State
Sharp averaged 45.1 yards on 67 punts, the second-best average ever for an Oklahoma State punter and fifth-highest in the nation. He also had 35 touchbacks as a kickoff specialist and earned All-Big 12 honorable mention as a freshman.
5. Derek Epperson, P, Baylor
An All-Big 12 first-team punter, Epperson, a senior, will be a four-year starter at punter for the Bears. Last season, he was third in the Big 12 in punting average (44.8 yards) and put opponents inside the 20-yard line 12 times.