Hey y’all. So, Punting is Winning is on a bit of a hiatus. I made a pretty big move this summer (Iowa City to Houston, TX), and I’m working every Saturday this season, so I’m not gonna be able to produce a full length column every week. I punted it to my fellow “writers,” but no one was able to field it, so I’m going to do my best to give y’all the PISS you deserve. Sometimes, that’s just gonna be stats. Sometimes, I’ll give you highlights (but probably pretty rarely, as embedding things sucks and is hard). And sometimes, like this week, I’ll go into topics I find interesting. Let’s look at who’s kicking the torch this year in the Big Ten, shall we?
The Big Ten as a conference returns ten of fourteen starting punters from last year, with only Jordan Stout and Blake Hayes of note leaving (Northwestern and Nebraska also have new punters). Stout was drafted by the Ravens and appears to have made their roster, while Hayes will be kicking in his third country after being drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL.
Northwestern appears to have really upgraded at the field-flipping position, adding Luke Akers to what was a below-average unit last year. Akers was the number three kicking prospect of the 2020 class, according to 247, and a three-star talent. He is the son of former Eagles placekicker David Akers. Akers comes to Northwestern via the transfer portal, leaving behind future conference foe UCLA.
Nebraska finally made an improvement on special teams, adding FCS Punter of the Year Brian Buschini (no relation to Steve Buscemi, no matter how my brain keeps pronouncing it). Buschini is also a transfer (obviously), leaving behind the big skies of Montana. He had nearly a 50-yard average last year, and put 35 of 75 punts inside the 20. I have not calculated his PISS, though.
Penn State punter Barney Amor has big shoes to fill after sitting behind Jordan Stout last year. The sixth-year senior transferred from Colgate last year and is using his extra COVID eligibility to put in a season with the Nittany Lions. He had a 42.1-yard average in 2019, and was placed on scholarship this offseason. Love to see it!
Illinois is likewise trying to replace a key player in Blake Hayes, and is doing it with fellow-Aussie Hugh Robertson. The Melbourne-born punter may be a redshirt sophomore, but he’s got plenty of experience. Not in punting (he recorded just one collegiate punt before this season), but in life. The 29-year-old was a former Aussie Rules player, and then a Victoria police officer for eight years. Prokick Australia got him to the states, and he joined the Illinois program at 27 years old.
Adam Korsak (Rutgers), Andy Vujnovich (Wisconsin), Brad Robbins (Michigan), Brian Buschini (Nebraska), Bryce Baringer (MSU), and Tory Taylor (Iowa) were all named to the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list. Korsak was a finalist for the award last year, while Taylor and Robbins joined him as semifinalists.
Okay, onto the stats:
Surprisingly, Taylor did not have the highest PISS this week after putting two of his final three punts into the endzone. Without those, his average would have been a stunning 50.117. Regardless, for his ten punts that controlled field position in a sluggish Iowa victory over SDSU, including two which set up the decisive safeties, he gets my nod for Punter of the Week.