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Big Ten Position Rankings 2016: PUNTERS PUNTERS PUNTERS PUNTERS PUNTERS

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It's the only day MNWildcat cares about at OTE. Come, share in the punt of human kindness with me!

We say around Off Tackle Empire that punting is winning, and often that's more than a little tongue-in-cheek. But ask Michigan in 2015 if punting truly was, indeed, winning, and after most of them were done weeping/punching you, they would likely agree.

And ah!, the Big Ten punter. A noble breed, usually long of leg and big of heart, always there to brighten your day with his tweets and occasionally actually do some really cool stuff off the field. As a young lad in the frozen backyards and later the only-slightly-less-frozen high school football fields of Minnesota, I aspired to be one of them: scooping my worthless long snapper's 2-hopped snap, rolling three steps to the right, and letting a rugby-style punt fly.

But life is cruel and short, and I had to settle for going to college as a member of the marching band instead. Maybe that's why I'm so bitter.

...where was I? Oh yes. Punters. This is my favorite article to write and perhaps the only one I really actually care about writing at OTE. My #taeks are probably wrong to all of you, but that doesn't mean they're any less #hot.

Anyways, your only assignment while reading this article is to think about Sam Foltz's hair, read Peter Mortell's tweets, and watch the Michigan punter gif over, and over, and over. No, that's not that gif. That's the other gif. Because thank you, Michigan, for never failing to give us punter gifs.

So yes, step on into the Rhys Lloyd-Stefan Demos Memorial Punters' Lounge. Let's do this.

1. Cameron Johnston (Ohio State)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Johnston

OSU

4

58

2549

43.948

67

26

44.8%

7

12.1%

21

36.2%

18

31.0%

Twitter: @Cam_Johnston

Johnston didn't win the Big Ten Punter of the Year award in 2015, but with the exception of yards per punt (an area in which he fell just .25 yards behind the runner-up) and a slightly higher touchback rate, the Aussie matches Foltz stat-for-stat. While in part a product of the Buckeyes' excellent coverage team, Johnston produced a whopping 36% fair catch rate on his kicks while still putting nearly a third of his kicks over 50 yards. The 2015 Ray Guy semifinalist will likely find his way onto that list again in 2016 and is sure to continue to flip the field for the Buckeyes.

2. Sam Foltz (Nebraska)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Foltz

UNL

4

56

2477

44.2

67

15

27%

5

9%

9

16%

16

29%

Twitter: @samfoltz27

Jesse Collins: Sam Foltz is the best punter in the Big Ten. His average was best in the Big Ten last year, and he was stellar at pinning teams inside their own 20. He's the returning punter of the year and he's also a holder so FOLTZ FOR PRESIDENT!

MNW: Unfortunately, as ultimate arbiter of all things OTE punting, I disagreed. And I'm so, so sorry, Sam Foltz and all of Nebraska, because Get fucked, Ohio State. Foltz means more to his club - there's no doubt about that. But by that logic, too, Purdue would be in first place. While Foltz wins the All-B1G Punter Hair award and the 2015 Eddelman-Fields Award, it's gotta be Johnston by the nose of the ball.

3. Jake Hartbarger (Michigan State)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Hartbarger

MSU

2r

57

2434

42.702

61

21

37%

8

14%

13

23%

17

30%

Twitter: @JakeHart24

Noted Member of the Aryan Race Jake Hartbarger will become the third four-year starter at punter for the Spartans if his redshirt freshman year results hold up. Replacing the inimitable Mike Sadler, the 6'4" Ohioan gained a reputation for pinning opponents deep, putting a second-best 37% of punts inside the 20 and booting 30% of his kicks over 50 yards. Look for him to sneak onto the Ray Guy Watch List soon if he keeps this up.

4. Joe Schopper (Purdue)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Schopper

PU

2

58

2332

40.2

69

20

34%

2

3%

19

33%

12

21%

Twitter: @schopperindacar

Joe Schopper won the job from Thomas Meadows and proceeded to be the most valuable player for Purdue in 2015. If there's one person I won't be surprised to have ranked too low on this list, it's the freshman out of Indy with the strong bow tie game. I'd likely chalk up some of the low touchback rate to, well, Purdue not being close enough to the end zone for touchbacks to be an issue, but a 40-yard average as a freshman with the third-best I20% of any returning B1G punter has to turn some heads.

5. Ryan Frain (Illinois)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Frain

IL

4

70

2814

40.2

72

12

17%

9

13%

15

21%

12

17%

Twitter: @Rfrain13

Hooray! Something that Illinois does semi-competently! Frain has a nice if second-tier leg for a Big Ten punter, with a solid YPP but a below-average touchback rate. The Indianapolis native will be key to Illinois' ability to flip the field and give its defense some breathing room as it no doubt slowly chokes itself to death in 2016.

6. Nicolas Pritchard (Maryland)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Pritchard

MD

2

55

2099

38.164

70

13

24%

1

2%

18

33%

5

9%

Twitter: @NickPritchard19

After Nathan Renfro left College Park for Knoxville, Pritchard filled in admirably as Maryland's only freshman to start all 12 games for the Terrapins. While he didn't show off as big a leg as most of the other punters in the Big Ten, the New Egypt, NJ, native had an outstanding fair catch rate and limited returns by opponents. Adding a little leg strength will see him vault up this list in the future.

7. Ron Coluzzi or Colten Rastetter (Iowa)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Coluzzi

IA

4t

59

2310

39.2

61

20

34%

3

5%

22

37%

Rastetter

IA

1r

######

######

######

######

######

Iowa used two punters last year, with Marshall Koehn coming on to boom the occasional rugby-style punt and keep Dillon Kidd honest (after other scholarship punter) Connor Kornbrath left the program but stayed on scholarship. Both are gone, though, and there's uncertainly and competition at the punting slot.

Because of course there's competition at the Hawkeyes' punter slot. And not only is there competition, but per Black Heart Gold Pants' very own RossWB, Iowa's gotten graduate transfer Ron Coluzzi from Central Michigan.

That's right.

A graduate transfer.

At punter.

Iowa.

Twitter: I can't find an active account for Coluzzi, and Rastetter hasn't tweeted in almost a year. Because this is Iowa.

8. Hunter Niswander (Northwestern)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Niswander

NU

3

85

3227

38.0

56

21

25%

2

2%

30

35%

6

7%

Twitter: @HunterNiswander

I'm sure he's a nice kid. And Pat Fitzgerald does ask Niswander to sky a lot of punts, yielding a very high fair catch rate. So no doubt I'm more upset at the system than the punter.

But that 50+% rate and the YPP make me want to put my head through a wall. It is agonizing to watch Northwestern punt the ball, and it has been for some time. Oh, and the best part? InsideNU is projecting that in 2016 Niswander will be pushed by...no one. We're one-deep at the ol' puntin' slot. Suuuuuper.

Sample Size Issues:

We've got a couple returning punters with some potential, but limited stats:

Kenny Allen (Michigan)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Allen

MI

4r

1

57

57

57

0%

0%

0%

1

100%

Twitter: @KennyAllen91

Replacing the much-maligned Blake O'Neill, former kicker Kenny Allen showed at least one flash of a big leg in 2015. In all honesty, I can't tell who Michigan's starting punter actually will be in 2016, so someone feel free to correct me here. Regardless, this being Michigan and all B1G things being unequal, I'm sure he'll clock in at about the 3rd- or 4th-best punter in the conference by year's end.

Michael Cintron (Rutgers)

Punter

School

Yr

Tot

Yds

YPP

Lg

I20

I20%

TB

TB%

FC

FC%

50+

50+%

Cintron

RU

2r

3

153

51.0

57

0

0%

0

0%

0

0%

2

67%

The massive freshman from Piscataway (way to lock down the ol' backyard, Rutgers!) only punted once for the Scarlet Knights in 2015, absolutely booming three kicks against Wisconsin. I like what I saw, but it's too early to call this a trend, so we'll slot him in the uncertain category.

The Newcomers

I'm pretty loathe to rank freshman or new punters. Just pretend that everyone looked great at kicking camp, was a 5* Kohl's Camp punter, and was All-District/Section/Conference in high school. In lieu of actual analysis, here are the rest from around the conference:

Joseph Gedeon (Indiana)

Twitter: @ChoccoBoomStick

Already an odds-on favorite for best Tweeting punter to replace Peter Mortell, Joseph Gedeon replaces the departing Erich Toth at Indiana. The freshman has already begun campaigning for awards in 2016:

Minnesota

Ryan Santoso? Some walk-on who will emerge at spring ball? I honestly don't know. The only thing I do know is that no one can replace Holder of the Year Peter Mortell.

Blake Gillikin (Penn State)

87townie: Penn State has incoming freshman Blake Gillikin, who I think will make an immediate improvement on PSU's punting unit. In 2015, we punted 81 times, with an average distance of just 39.3 yards. The net was 35.7 yards. That's horribad...108th out of 128 possible teams.

Gillikin comes in as a 5* punter according to Kohl's Kicking. His stats look impressive and let's face it, the position is his to lose.

Twitter: @BlakeGillikin

PJ Rosowski (Wisconsin)

Redshirt freshman P.J. Rosowski takes over for the departing Drew Meyer. Per the aptly-named BradNortmansActingCoach, he will be challenged by 3* punter outta Georgia Anthony Lotti.

Twitter: @PJRosowski8

---

I'm sure I've failed to adequately break down/diagnose at least one RED HOT PUNTING RACE at one of these schools, so be sure to impugn my character, credibility, and sense of fashion in the comments. Vote in the poll and follow your favorite punter (oh hell, follow them all! Punters are the best!) on Twitter.

Punting is winning,

MNW