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. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.
The Ray Guy Award is given to the best punter in college football. Last year's winner was Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen.
Ray Guy Award Winner:
Brad Wing, LSU
The Guy Award was started in 2000 and since then no player has won the award in back-to-back years. Even though Baylor's Daniel Sepulveda won the award twice, in 2004 and 2006, history points to another punter winning the Guy Award over Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen. Aside from him, the other top punter in the nation is LSU's Wing and it isn't even close.
The redshirt freshman Wing took the SEC and college football by storm in 2011. He was a First-Team All-American and First-Team All-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 6-foot-3, 184-pounder has good talent on offense and defense to help put him in good punting situations. All the redshirt sophomore has to do is stay consistent with last year's performance, and he will be the elite of the nation. Wing is currently the heavy favorite to win this season's Ray Guy Award. He could be a potential mid-round draft pick when he enters the NFL.
Ray Guy Award Runner-Up:
Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
Allen won the Ray Guy Award for the 2011 season over some excellent punters like California's Bryan Anger and LSU's Wing. Allen was fifth in the nation in punting with an average of 46.12 yards per punt. He also led the nation with 39 punts downed inside the 20 and 22 punts downed inside the 10. The redshirt junior had a long punt of 72 yards.
Allen averaged 40.8 yards per punt in 2010. He didn't play the previous two seasons while on Oregon State's football team.
Heading into his final season, Allen (6-2, 215) could make history by being the first player to win the Ray Guy Award in back-to-back years. However, history favors the award going to a different punter. Right now, Allen looks like he could turn into a draft pick for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Ray Guy Award Dark Horse:
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. The junior also downed 17 inside in the 20-yard line. Rice 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. He should have many good situations to place punts inside the 20 as a result. The drawback to that offense is that it scores so often that Rice doesn't receive as many punting opportunities. If the senior continues to improve like he has in years past, he has a good shot of being a finalist for the Ray Guy Award.
Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma State punter Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma punter Tress Way and UTEP punter Ian Campbell.