The Third Phase: Looking At Contenders, Part 1

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Why yes, we have another edition of the Third Phase waiting for you. It’s the kind of thing you set your Monday around, right? What else could you possibly do around this time, right?! Previous editions can be found here!

Looking at the Contenders

This week and next week, we’re going to take a little time out of this column to look at a few of the contender’s for the Ray Guy Award. The final list of nominees was released last week. You can find the full list on their website. It’s a long list and it would be cruel of me to place them all here on the website. Plus that’s a lot of space to take up.

Instead, we’re going to do a list of 10 punters we think have a strong chance of being semifinalists for the award. We’ll do five this week and five the next. Some of these might be right and others could be completely wrong. The full semifinalists will be announced November 16. Let’s list the first five punters:

1. Mitch Wishnowsky- Utah

If you’re looking for an obvious contender, it helps to consider the defending award winner. Not only did Wishnowsky win it last year, but Utah has won the award three straight times. Tom Hackett won the other two awards.

Believe it or not, Wishnowsky hasn’t punted the ball much this season. He’s done it 34 times. That doesn’t mean he isn’t efficient when he does it, though. He’s averaging 45.7 yards per boot, which is eighth in FBS. Against UCLA Friday night, Wishnowsky punted it four times, averaging 46.5 yards. One of those punts led to a fumble recovery and an eventual touchdown for the Utes.

Wishnowsky has the opportunity to become the first repeat winner of the award since Ryan Allen of Louisiana Tech did it in 2012.

2. Michael Dickson- Texas

If you’ll recall, we praised Dickson a couple weeks ago and anointed him as a likely contender for the award. He’s been so good, even Mike Gundy praised him.

I haven’t seen anything from Dickson to suggest that he won’t be a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. It hasn’t been an easy season for the Longhorns. However, Dickson keeps them in games. He’s a talented punter and deserves the recognition. Dickson is second in FBS in average yards with 48.8.

Against TCU on Saturday, Dickson punted the ball nine times, averaging 50.8 yards. One of Dickson’s punts went 76 yards and was downed at the TCU 10-yard line. The guy is good and I think he’s the best punter in college football.

3. Johnny Townsend- Florida

Not much has gone right for the Gators this season. However, Johnny Townsend has turned himself into a legitimate contender for the Ray Guy Award.

Townsend leads the nation in average yards with 49.4 per punt. He’s really stepped it up since the LSU game, not having an average of below 45 yards during that timespan. Against LSU, he punted the ball five times, averaging 48.4 yards.

I fully expect Townsend to prove that he’s a contender. He could be the first Ray Guy Award winner for Florida since Chas Henry in 2010.

4. Kaare Vedvik- Marshall

This one might be a bit of a dark horse candidate, but hey it’s my list.  Vedvik has been a solid punter for Marshall this season. He had a 92-yard boot earlier in the year and he averages 45.1 yards per punt.

Vedvik has punted just four times in the previous two games, including twice against Florida Atlantic. One of those punts on Friday night pinned FAU at their six-yard line.

5. JK Scott- Alabama

Alabama is a good football team. They’re solid on offense and dominating on defense. However, we don’t look too much at their special teams’ efforts, which is a shame. JK Scott is a terrific punter and he’s worked hard for the Crimson Tide all season.

Scott’s numbers don’t seem that exciting, necessarily. He’s 49th in FBS in average punting yards with 42.5 yards. In fact, he’s only punted 32 times this season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Before the LSU game, Scott punted more than five times just once during the season and that came in the opener versus Florida State. Since then, he’s only had to punt maybe three or four times per game.

Saturday night against LSU was an exception. He punted eight times, averaging 51 yards per boot. Scott was masterful too. He wasn’t necessarily a contender before, but Scott made himself one on Saturday night.

We’ll have five more punters to watch for next Monday. And I’ll have much more on Scott in a bit.

A less than stellar day for A&M

You might have noted we didn’t have Texas A&M punter Shane Tripucka on this list. He’s had a good season, but Saturday didn’t go well for him nor his team.

First, Auburn blocked one of his punts which resulted in a touchdown.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/926872108554170368

As friend of the program Matt Zemek pointed out, that was an ill-timed effort for A&M to let happen at that point. It’s almost halftime: why give the other team ANY momentum? Auburn is a team that can score quickly and makes you pay dearly. The punt team needs to be better than that.

It didn’t get better for Tripucka. What can you do though? Auburn took advantage and made Texas A&M pay. Hopefully, the Aggies can get it together.

A fake punt first down from…Kansas?

There weren’t a lot of highlights Saturday for the Kansas Jayhawks. However, punter Cole Moos provided one with a fake punt run for a first down against Baylor.

He took off immediately and got that first down, as you can see. Moos did not make the list of Ray Guy Award candidates. I can’t say the committee would’ve changed their minds to add Moos to the list. What can you do, though?

A punt under a less than ideal situation

Idaho’s Cade Coffey also didn’t make the nominee list for the Ray Guy Award. He deserves some props though for what he did last Thursday night. Take a look at this video from Reddit CFB’s Twitter!

It’s impressive to get a punt off like that under stressful scenarios. Coffey did just that, though. He made the most of the situation and got off a decent punt.

That FAU thing everyone is talking about

I’d be a fool if I didn’t discuss this play. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of thoughts on it. FAU did what they felt worked best for them.

It is what it is. Honestly, I’m not all that sympathetic to those who gamble on sports. But hey, sorry about your money. Maybe you’ll learn next time.

Most Punts/Fewest Punts

We had a bunch of punters finish their respective games with nine. To break up the tie, I’m just going to pick Dickson of Texas. As a reminder, he had nine for 50.8 in the game versus TCU.

For fewest punts, we had a couple of those, but give the honor to UAB’s Joel Dixon, who had one for 46 yards. By the way, UAB is also bowl eligible. That is probably no coincidence. Congratulations to UAB!

Awards

I hyped this player a little earlier when talking about Ray Guy contenders. I’m giving this week’s Third Phase Punter of the Week to JK Scott of Alabama. Of his eight punts against LSU, seven of them went inside the 20. Scott had a masterful game on Saturday night and proved that Alabama is a very good team all-around.

Ironically, we’re on the same wavelength again with the Ray Guy Award committee. They also picked Scott for Punter of the Week honors.

Scott put together the best punting performance of the weekend. He did well! And I fully expect him to step it up as Alabama continues to dominate.