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.
Brad Wing, LSU
The redshirt freshman took the SEC and college football by storm in 2011. He was a First-Team All-American and First-Team SEC selection. Wing put up a superb stat line with an average of 44.1 yards per punt (50 total punts); 23 downed inside the 20-yard line; 11 downed inside the 10-yard line; 18 punts of 50+ yards and a long punt of 73 yards.
The sophomore enters the 2012 season as the top punter in the nation. Wing (6-3, 184) has good talent on offense and defense to help put him in good punting situations. All he has to do is stay consistent with last year's performance, and he will be the elite of the nation. Wing is on the watch list for the Ray Guy award and the heavy favorite to win it in 2012. Wing is presently on his way to becoming a potential mid-round draft pick.
Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
Allen was fifth in the nation in punting last year, averaging 46.12 yards per punt. He won the Ray Guy Award for the 2011 season over some excellent punters like California's Bryan Anger and LSU's Brad Wing. Allen led the nation with 39 punts downed inside the 20 and 22 punts downed inside the 10. He also had a long punt of 72 yards. Allen averaged 40.8 yards per punt in 2010. He did not play the previous two seasons while being on the Oregon State football team.
Heading into his senior season, Allen (6-2, 215) could push Wing for the First-Team spot based on reputation. Right now, Allen looks like he could turn into a draft pick for the 2013 class.
Jackson Rice, Oregon
It isn't easy kicking in the Pacific Northwest, but Rice showed the talent to compete with punters who have better conditions. He had a strong 2011 season, averaging 45.9 yards per punt and kicking a long of 61 yards. Rice downed 17 inside in the 20-yard line. He improved from 2010 when he averaged 42.3 yards per punt, and in 2009 when he had an average of 40.5 yards.
Rice (6-3, 223) has an excellent offense to work with. As a result, he should have many good situations to place kicks inside the 20. The drawback to that offense is they score so often that Rice doesn't receive as many punting opportunities. If he continues to improve like he has in years past, Rice has a good shot of getting into the final All-American spot.
Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma State punter Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma punter Tress Way and UTEP punter Ian Campbell.
Walt, your grade on the Earl Michell pickup by SF is off completely. Yes while he isn't a big threat in terms of DT look at all the defensive tackles, san francisco has? its mainly dial and purcell who have been doing the work and they need somebody else on that line. So this is easily a C+ or B- grade Free agent. While Mitchell did deal with injuries recently, SF is adding to the depth and at this point its a good pickup.