Who Are The Top Kickers And Punters
As you the constant reader of Last Word On College Football knows we are going position by position through the SEC. From quarterbacks through the secondary we’re ranking the best players at each position. Today we’ll rank the top five players at both kicker and punter. In addition, we’ll rank the top return men. We begin ranking the SEC’s Top Specialists with the kickers, where you’ll find the top three are all from the SEC West.
King Of The Hill
1. Cade York- LSU– While his stats were down in 2020 from the year before there’s still no doubt the junior is number one in the SEC. Of course, in 2019 he had Joe Burrow and possibly the best offense in NCAA history. York made all 36 of his extra points and 18 of 21 field goals. That ranked him second in the SEC and sixth in the nation. Most famously York made a 57 yarder in “The Swamp” in the fog giving the Tigers a 37-34 win.
— Kohl's Kicking Camps (@KohlsKicking) December 13, 2020
A Close Second
2. Anders Carlson- Auburn– A season ago the senior lead the SEC with 20 field goals in 22 attempts. Carlson’s gotten better each year at Auburn going from hitting 60% of his field goals as a freshman to 90% last year.
Three More Top Kickers
3. Will Reichard- Alabama- The Crimson Tide’s had their problems at kicker over the years but the junior has proven very reliable. A season ago Reichard was perfect as he made all 84 of his extra points and 14 of 14 on-field goals for defending National Champions. . He has the chance to be a real weapon for Nick Saban as their offense may take some to develop under Bryce Young.
4. Jace Christman- Florida- Dan Mullen used the transfer portal to find a replacement for Evan McPherson. Christman comes to Gainesville from Mississippi State where he was the Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer with 219. In addition, he owns the record for most consecutive extra points made with 95.
5. Jack Podlesny- Georgia- The sophomore had the unenviable task of replacing Rodrigo Blankenship. However, Podlensy more than held his own making all 38 extra points and 13 of 16 field goals. In addition, his 53 yarder gave the Bulldogs a Peach Bowl win.
As we continue ranking the SEC’s Top Specialists we now head to the punters.
Possible Award Winners
1. Jake Carmada- Georgia- As a junior Carmada was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. This season he’s one of the leading contenders after averaging 46.6 yards a punt in 2020.
2. Mac Brown- Ole Miss- In a Lane Kiffin offense punters generally aren’t used that much. However Brown averaged 46.6 yards per punt on only 27 kicks last season. In addition, he had 11 punts of 50 yards or more.
Vying For The Top Spot
3. Paxton Brooks- Tennessee- In 2020 the senior averaged 43.6 yards per punt and had 17 kicks inside of the 20. New coach Josh Heupel hopes Brooks won’t average five punts a game in 2021.
4. Grant McKinniss- Missouri- This will be the sixth season McKinniss has been on an SEC roster. He spent his first three years at Kentucky before transferring. Last year he averaged nearly 44 yards a punt with six going more than 50 yards.
5. Harrison Smith- Vanderbilt- There are a lot of questions for new coach Clark Lea’s Commodores in 2021. However, a punter isn’t one of them as Smith ranked fourth in the SEC with 1887 yards.
As we finish ranking the SEC’s Top Specialists it’s time to look at the top return guys.
Big Time Performers
1. Jerrion Ealy- Ole Miss- Coming off shoulder surgery in the off-season Ealy should be good to go for Lane Kiffin in 2021. During his career, the Rebels’ speedster has averaged 26.3 yards per kick return over the last two years including one for a touchdown each year. One of those was a 100 yarder against LSU.
2. Tank Bigsby- Auburn– As a freshman, Bigsby was second in the SEC with 306 return yards and third in the league with 23.5 yards per return. Those numbers should be even better in 2021.
3. Lideatrick Griffin- Mississippi State- Another freshman who put up big numbers last year. Griffin averaged a whopping 37 yards on only seven returns. His best game was in the Armed Forces Bowl with 138 return yards.
4. Kearis Jackson- Georgia- The junior averaged 27 yards per kick return and another six yards per punt return in 2020. The latter ranked first in the SEC.
5. Ainias Smith- Texas A&M- If this were the all-purpose category then Smith would be number one. He does a little of everything for Jimbo Fisher including returning punts. He’s a top candidate for the Paul Hornung Award as the best all-around player.
Thanks for Ranking The SEC’s Top Specialists here at Last Word On College Football. Who’s ranked too high or low? Drop us a comment below or chime in on Twitter. Coming soon is our SEC East and West rankings and our first bowl projections.