NCF Nation: Lou Groza
The big names: Start with two Lou Groza Award winning kickers: UCLA's Kai Forbath (2009) and Arizona State's Thomas Weber (2007). Then there's Oregon State's Justin Kahut, who made 22 of 27 field goals with a long of 50, and Washington's Erik Folk, who was 18 for 21 with a long of 48. As for the punters, Arizona State's Trevor Hankins ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 and 10th in the nation in punting (44.2 yards per punt), while UCLA's Jeff Locke (43.6) was 16th in the nation and Washington State's Reid Forrest (43.2) was 21st. Oh, and California's Bryan Anger might have the biggest foot of everyone; he dropped a conference-high 24 punts inside the 20 last year.
Why is it thin? Four of the six linebackers who made up the first and second All-Pac-10 teams are gone as are five of the 11 LBs who earned honorable mention. Only two teams -- USC and Oregon -- welcome back all of their starting LBs from 2009, and a big story this spring was the Trojans lack of depth at the position, while the Ducks moved Eddie Pleasant to safety (in large part because of depth at the position). Arizona is replacing all three starting linebackers, while Arizona State, Oregon State and UCLA only have one returning starter at the position (though the Beavers outside linebacker platoon of Dwight Roberson and Keith Pankey probably should count as more than one starter).
Fill the void? This is not a "strength" position, but the cupboard is hardly empty: UCLA's Akeem Ayers, California's Mike Mohamed and Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict are All-American candidates, while Oregon's Casey Matthews earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2009 and Washington's Mason Foster is a likely breakout player. The Ducks, in particular, are fast and deep at linebacker, while the Sun Devils aren't far behind in terms of young talent.
Arkansas State kicker Josh Arauco headlines a list of 10 players from the nonautomatic qualifying schools who were named to the Lou Groza Award watch list on Wednesday.
Arauco was a finalist for last year's award but was edged out by Florida State's Graham Gano.
Two players from the current non-AQ schools have won the award -- Tulane's Seth Marler (2001) and TCU's Michael Reeder (1995).
Utah's Louie Sakoda also was a finalist last season.
The Award will be presented on Dec. 10, 2009, as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards program. The three finalists will be honored at the 18th annual Lou Groza Award Banquet to be held at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida on Dec. 8.
2009 LOU GROZA AWARD WATCH LIST
Josh Arauco, Arkansas State
James Aho, New Mexico
Kyle Brotzman, Boise State
Ross Evans, TCU
Clark Fangmeier, Rice
Sam Glusman, Troy
Kevin Goessling, Fresno State
Ben Hartman, East Carolina
Mike Salerno, Northern Illinois
Alex Steigerwald, Toledo