Monday, May 21, 2012
Top performer: Punter
By Edward Aschoff
Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 continues with a look at the league's top returning punters.
The SEC returns seven of the top 10 punters from last season. We're going by average yardage per punt. Note: To qualify, a punter must have at least 2.5 punts per team's games played. The top punter returns, but he'll surely have some tough competition this fall.
Here's a look at the top returning punter by kick average:
Dylan Breeding, Arkansas: He averaged 45.3 yards per punt last fall, with a long of 70 yards. Breeding pinned 16 of his 53 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line and had 17 punts of 50 or more yards. Breeding has one of the best legs in the league, but is also pretty accurate. His leg became another defensive weapon for the Razorbacks and he returns as one of the school's top punters. With a new defensive coordinator and some missing defensive parts from last year, Breeding will be even more important for the Hogs when the offense falters.
The SEC returns six more of the top 10 punters:
- Brad Wing, LSU: He averaged 44.4 yards per punt, with a long of 73 yards. He also pinned 27 kicks inside the 20-yard line and had 20 punts of 50 or more yards.
- Tyler Campbell, Ole Miss: He averaged 43.6 yards per punt, with a long of 73. He also pinned 28 kicks inside the 2o and had 16 punts of 50 or more yards.
- Richard Kent, Vanderbilt: He averaged 42.5 yards per punt, with a long of 67. He also pinned 23 kicks inside the 20 and had 18 punts of 50 or more yards.
- Baker Swedenburg, Mississippi State: He averaged 41.8 yards per punt, with a long of 58. He also pinned 19 kicks inside the 20 and had 14 punts of 50 or more yards.
- Steven Clark, Auburn: He averaged 40.8 yards per punt, with a long of 58 yards. He also pinned 33 kicks inside the 20. (Punts of 50 or more yards not available.)
- Cody Mandell, Alabama: He averaged 39.3 yards per punt, with a long of 52 yards. He also pinned 11 kicks inside the 20 and had two punts of 50 or more yards.
Punting can be a little more predictable than place-kicking, so Breeding has a pretty good shot of retaining his crown. If Arkansas' offense didn't eat into his production last year there might not be concern of it happening again. Campbell should challenge Breeding because Ole Miss' offense is looking to install a new offense this fall, and that will take some time for players to get used to.
Obviously, Wing is someone who could push for the top average as well. He has a cannon for a leg and has pinpoint accuracy. He's also the most entertaining kicker out there.
Definitely keep an eye on Missouri's Trey Barrow. He was second in the Big 12 in punting average (44.8) and had a long of 74 yards last season. He also pinned 10 kicks inside the 20 and had 18 punts of 50 or more yards.
Florida's Kyle Christy averaged 40.9 yards per punt last year, but didn't meet the criteria of having at least 2.5 punts per his team's games. He also struggled to crack the starting lineup at first before starting the last seven games of the season. If he can start things off as the Gators' starter, he could push for the crown.
Texas A&M's Ryan Epperson could also challenge for the throne after he averaged 41.2 yards per punt and pinned 19 kicks inside the 20. He had a long of 68 yards and booted 10 punts for 50 or more yards.
Keep an eye on Joe Mansour and Jay Willmott at Kentucky, as they battle for the starting spot.