Heading into the 2012 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation's leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall's stars could be the headline players next April for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Caleb Sturgis, Florida
Former Florida Gators head coach and current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has always emphasized having one of the top special teams units in the nation. His vision for that included bringing in Sturgis to Gainesville to be his kicker.
After being a backup on the 2008 National Championship team, Sturgis took over kicking duties in 2009 and had a solid debut. He was 22-of-30 on field goal attempts and 44-of-47 on extra points as a sophomore. Sturgis was injured for the majority of the 2010 season, but he came back last year with an excellent season.
Sturgis was the Second-Team All-American in 2011 and the top kicker in the SEC. He made 22-of-26 field goals and 31-of-31 extra points. Sturgis had a long of 55 yards and made three kicks from over 50 yards. He was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top placekicker. Only Texas A&M's Randy Bullocks had a better season in college football.
Sturgis (5-10, 185) has a strong and accurate leg. He enters the season as the top returning kicker in the nation wand the potential to be drafted. Staying healthy is the key for Sturgis.
Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
Hopkins has one of the strongest legs in the country, and he showed off that power by drilling a 60-yard field goal in Florida State's spring game. Hopkins made field goals from 52, 53 and 55 yards in 2011. He was good on 22-of-27 (81 percent) field goal attempts for the season.
Hopkins made 75 percent of his kicks in his first two years of college. However, he missed four extra points in his first three collegiate games in 2009. Since then Hopkins has made 130 straight extra points. In 223 career field goal attempts, he has never had a kick blocked. On kickoffs, Hopkins (6-2, 190) consistently drills touchbacks with 94 total in three seasons.
It is entirely possible that the strong-legged kicker will make a run at being the First-Team All-American.
Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
Sharp was the Third-Team All-American selection last season. He was very accurate, making 22-of-25 field goals; he did not attempt a kick in the 50-yard range. Sharp (6-1, 189) also served as the Cowboys punter and averaged 46.3 yards per punt, with 12 downed inside the 20 last year. He has a strong and accurate leg, leading the nation in 2011 with 61 touchbacks on kickoffs.
Last season was Sharp's first as the kicker, so he could be even better in 2012 after gaining a year of experience.
Honorable Mentions: Nebraska kicker Brett Maher, Ohio kicker Matt Weller and Syracuse kicker Ross Krautman.