Michigan State’s Jayden Reed had a game-tying 62-yard punt return TD (and another 69 yards (nice) on two kick returns) to set the Spartans up for a win over Nebraska, and Indiana’s Charles Campbell accounted for 15 of their 33 points in their way-too-narrow win over Western Kentucky, thanks to four field goals and three extra points. They were pretty heads-and-shoulders the returner and kicker of the week, respectively. But if you read Beez’s POTW article, you’d know that. What the hell, Beez? I thought I was doing this because you hated specialists? Alright, some of that might have been my imagination, but come on man. You didn’t leave me much room to work here.
Just kidding, specialists deserve all the love they can get, and then some. And this just leaves me more room to talk about punters!
Punter of the Week
It had to come to an end sometime. In his team’s 20-13 loss to Michigan, Adam Korsak only punted twice for a total of 81 yards. It was the first time this season he didn’t land a punt at the 1. And to make matters worse, he didn’t put either punt inside the 20. And he had a 33-yard shank. And his longer punt was returned 27 yards. His net punt average dropped two whole yards thanks to this game. It was a dark, dark day. Ray Guy cried.
But in his absence, another took hold of the spotlight. Penn State’s Jordan Stout punted four times for just a 38.5 yard average, but landed those four at the five, two, ten, and six yard lines, giving up no return yardage. That is an insanely efficient day. And to think, Penn State writers nominated some receiver for POTW just because he two touchdowns and 148 yards on five catches? Boring.
Stout is the definition of a specialist, also handling kickoffs and placekicking for the Nittany Lions. He’s got 24 touchbacks on 25 attempts, and is 5-8 on field goals and 15-16 on extra points this year. He would also return kicks if they weren’t so reliant on his leg, according to me and unconfirmed by Penn State sources.
Illinois’s Blake Hayes. Feels good to get to write that. Hayes had a good week one, but I wasn’t doing this yet, and he was fairly pedestrian in weeks two and three. But boy did he show up this week. Six punts, 48.5 yard average, four punts downed inside the 20, and this absolute bomb for a touchback.
Yes, this was an EIGHTY yard boot by @hayesblake14 of @IlliniFootball #ForTheBrand @PatMcAfeeShow pic.twitter.com/lASTr5ORly— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) September 25, 2021
Listen, touchbacks are bad. I don’t count them for longs generally because they’re 20 yards shorter on net than on gross. But even after the touchback, this is still a 60-yard punt. And I can’t even blame the coverage team, because that thing sailed down the field. Next time, Bert will need to take a delay of game to give Hayes some room.
Michigan State’s Bryce Baringer is a case I can’t quite figure out. This week, he had a 58.8 yard gross average on six punts, and put two inside the twenty, but two into the endzone. Should I be rewarding performances like that? That’s closer to a 52 yard net average. That’s still really good though. He just does this every week. We’ll talk about him more in a minute.
What’s more impressive
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Really long punts
Putting all your punts inside the ten
We’re about a third of the way through the season, so I wanted to take a look at the punter stats thus far. I don’t know how to embed tables properly, so we’re just gonna talk through em. Sorry.
The longest gross average belongs to Bryce Baringer, who boots a ball 53.2 yards per attempt. That’s three yards longer than second place, Adam Korsak, and second-best in the country. However, it’s seven yards longer than his net average, which is the worst differential in the league by 0.3 yards/punt, edging out noted not-good punter Daniel Cerni of Nebraska. See my problem with this guy? He has 8 punts inside the 20 (and 3 inside the 5) in his 17 attempts this year, which is good, but also 5 touchbacks, which is the worst in the league. Second worst is Tory Taylor, who had 6 touchbacks in 27 tries, which is roughly an entire punt better on the ole punts/touchback metric (this is not a widely recognized stat, as punting stats suck).
The best net yards/punt average belongs to none other than Adam Korsak, whose 48.3 yards/punt is a yard and a half better than second-place Baringer. It’s also the best in the country, with Baringer in second place. Elite. Know what else is elite? In 16 punts, Korsak has 10 downed inside the 20, and 4 inside the 5. That is insane. Two punters, Taylor and Hayes, have more inside the 20, but have 11 and 15 more punts, respectively. Only Ohio State’s Jesse Mirco has more inside the 20 per attempt, and Wisconsin’s Andy Vujnovich is the third and final punter to have more than half his attempts downed there, but nobody comes close to Korsak’s one-in-four inside the five efficiency.
The smallest discrepancy between gross and net, which represents the fewest return yards and touchbacks surrendered, belongs to Michigan’s Brad Robbins. Robbins doesn’t have any real eye-popping stats beyond that, though he does have four punts inside the twenty on only 11 attempts this year. At 2.75 punts/game, he’s the second least-utilized punter in the conference, tied with Ohio State’s Jesse Mirco and behind Maryland’s Anthony Percorella, who had to split time before presumably earning his start at this point. Punt more, Michigan. It looks good on you.
Real quick before we go, here’s Scott Frost trying to blame the punter for why he can’t coach special teams:
Scott Frost does not employ a dedicated special teams coordinator.
Best new punting stat
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Punts per inside 5
Punts return touchdowns per Frost fit