It’s hard to believe the calendar has turned to August. Of course, that means later this month we’ll have actual college football to watch. Here at Last Word On College Football we’ve been going through the Power Five conferences counting down the best players at each position. Now we’re focusing on the Group Of Five Schools. Today we shine the spotlight on the specialists. That means kickers, punters and returners. Let’s get right to it with the Top Returning Group Of Five Specialists starting with the kickers.
Fourth Best Returning Kicker
Cayden Camper– Colorado State- The Colorado native converted on all 27 of his extra points last year. In addition, he finished first in the Mountain West in field goal attempts and second in FBS in field goals per game. He set a school record with six field goals in a 32-14 win over San Jose State. The following week he hit five more in a win against New Mexico. Despite all his accomplishments Camper was only named Honorable Mention in 2021.
Third Best Returning Kicker
Zack Long– Tulsa- The former walk-on led the Golden Hurricane with 101 points last season on 35 of 36 extra points and 22 of 23 field goals. Furthermore he converted all 21 attempts inside 50 yards. He also made a season high three field goals against Temple and three more in their Myrtle Beach Bowl win. Much like Camper he was only and Honorable Mention AAC selection.
Second Best Returning Kicker
Owen Daffer– East Carolina- As a freshman the North Carolina native led the Pirates in scoring with 96 points. He converted on 39 of 41 extra points and 19 of 23 field goals. Daffer nailed three field goals in three different games and had a long of 54 yards against Navy. As a result he finished 2021 as first team All-AAC and starts there in the preseason this year.
Top Returning Group Of Five Kicker
Jonah Dalmas– Boise State- During his sophomore year Dalmas led the nation in field goals made with 26. Overall he nailed 26 of 28 and 38 of 39 extra points. He made four field goals three different times and three in two other games. As a result he was first team All-Mountain West and a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award. He starts this year on the watch list and first team All-Mountain West.
That’s our countdown of the top group of five kickers. As we continue with our top returning group of five specialists let’s move to the punters.
Fourth Best Returning Punter
Anthony Beck– Georgia Southern- As a junior Beck finished second the Sun Belt with a 45 yard average. He landed 23 punts inside the 20 yard line with only two going for touchbacks. In addition Beck had 17 kicks go for more than 50 yards including a 63 yarder against Georgia State. He’s looking to improve on his second team All-Sun Belt selection.
Third Best Returning Punter
Lucas Dean– Texas San-Antonio- During his junior season the Australia native finished first in Conference USA in punting yards with 2,621. His 45.2 yards per kick ranked third in the league. Dean landed 21 punts inside the 20 yard line with only three going for a touchback. A second team All-Conference performer he boomed 10 punts of more than 50 yards including a school record 73 yarder against UAB.
Second Best Returning Punter
Lachlan Wilson– Tulsa- Another native of Australia Wilson finished in the AAC and 18th in college football with a 45.7 yard average. He landed 21 kicks inside of the 20 yard line. Furthermore he had 23 punts of more than 50 yards including a 67 yarder against Ohio State. After not making any of the post season All-Conference teams in 2021 he starts this year as a first team selection.
Top Returning Group Of Five Punter
Rhys Byrns– Louisiana- Yet another Australian native, Byrns led the Sun Belt and finished 11th in the nation with a 46.1 yard average. He landed 22 punts inside the 20 yard line and 19 went 50 yards or more. His long of 70 against Troy tied a career high. Byrns finished last season as a first team All-Sun Belt and starts there in 2022.
Now that we’ve listed the top kickers and punters in our top returning group of five specialists. As a bonus let’s look at the top return men.
Third Best Return Man
Jordan Byrd– San Diego State- During the 2021 season Byrd averaged 27.1 yards per kick return and 7.1 yards per punt return. That included a 100 yard kick return for a touchdown against Utah. As a result he was named first team All-Mountain West return specialist. He also made the Paul Hornung watch list for the nation’s most versatile player.
Second Best Return Man
Jaylin Lane– Middle Tennessee State- As a redshirt freshman Lane finished second in nation and led Conference USA with 15.5 yards per punt return. He took a 70 yarder to the house in the Blue Raiders’ win over Monmouth. In addition he averaged 22 yards on kick returns. Lane was an All-Conference selection and made the FWAA freshman All-American team. As if that wasn’t enough he was third on the squad with 42 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns.
Top Group Of Five Return Man
Brian Battie– South Florida- Finishing 2-10 it wasn’t a great year for the Bulls. However Battie was a definite bright spot. He averaged a whopping 32.5 yards per kickoff return which ranked fifth in the nation. He had a 100 yard kickoff return against Tulsa. However he went one better taking two to the house in a epic 54-42 loss to Houston including another 100 yard return. Battie’s incredible season saw him named as a consensus All-American, the first player to do so since George Selvie in 2007. He starts 2022 on top of every list including Last Word.
Thanks for checking out the Top Returning Group Of Five Specialists here at Last Word On College Football. Is someone missing from the list or ranked too high or low? Chime in below in the comment section or on our Twitter page. As mentioned in the beginning college football season is almost here and we’ll have you covered all year.