Ranking the best college kickers and punters in the country
We always talk about the top players on offense and defense in college football, but rarely do we talk about the best kickers and punters in the nation. Slight rule variations and the difference in hash marks from college to the NFL offer some unique challenges for punters and kickers, and it’s a big part of why we see so many rugby-style punts in college.
Despite the small differences, we here at PFF have charted and graded every punt, kickoff, field goal and extra point in college for over two seasons now, which makes comparing and ranking them easier. So with that in mind, here are our top five punters and top five kickers so far this year:
- Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
Gonzalez has been incredibly accurate for the Sun Devils this year, connecting on 95.2 percent of the 21 field goals he has attempted this year. His lone miss came on a kick of over 50 yards, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he doesn’t have a big leg. Gonzalez has been good on six of the seven field goals he has attempted from 50 yards or further, including one from 59 yards out. He’s also showcased his booming leg on kickoffs, with 49 of his 66 kickoffs resulting in a touchback.
- Daniel Carlson, Auburn
It’s close enough between Carlson and Gonzalez that this could be considered a 1a and 1b situation, but Gonzalez has just edged it so far this year. Carlson too has just one miss, and it also came from over 50 yards, going 17-for-18 over the year so far, including two-for-three from 50 yards and beyond. Like Gonzalez he has severely limited the chance of a return by opposing units, seeing 44 touchbacks from 50 kickoffs so far this year.
- Jonathan Barnes, Louisiana Tech
Barnes is a step below Gonzalez and Carlson, but has been a fairly efficient field goal kicker this year. Accurate on 88.2 percent of his field goals, he has only attempted 17, but has been good on 15 of them. He has gone one-for-two from 50 yards and beyond, but was almost perfect from inside 50, going 14-for-15.
- Younghoe Koo, Georgia Southern
Koo has attempted just one kickoff so far this year, but it did result in a touchback so he does have a strong leg. He has attempted just 15 field goals this year, but has yet to miss, and has even made one from beyond 50 yards. His lack of attempts, and the fact that he has attempted just three kicks from 40 yards and further all year, limited his grade, but he has been among the best in the nation when called upon.
- Emilio Nadelman, South Florida
Like Koo, Nadelman is someone limited because he has so few attempts, attempting just seven field goals so far this year, but few teams have a kicker they can rely on when needed like South Florida can with him. He hasn’t attempted a single kick of 50 yards or further, but has been perfect on the kicks he has attempted. Last season he was accurate on just 65.2 percent of his field goal attempts.
- Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
A quiet part of Utah’s success this season, Wishnowsky has been key to starting opposing offensive drives on the wrong foot, with 26 of his 44 punts this year landing inside the opponents’ 20 yard line. Just 13 of his punts have been returned, while just two have resulted in touchbacks. Averaging 44.7 net yards per punt, he leads in the nation in that category.
- Jake Bailey, Stanford
The Pac-12 also hosts our second-highest-graded punter this year in Bailey. Punting 34 times so far this year, he has averaged 40.5 net yards per punt, with just 12 of his 34 punts returned. 15 of them have landed inside the opposing 20 yards line and two have resulted in touchbacks. His longest punt of the year so far went for 61 yards, while his highest hang-time on a punt was 5.09 seconds.
- Toby Baker, Arkansas
Baker is often mentioned during broadcasts as a punter with an NFL future, and our grades certainly don’t disagree. Of his 34 punts so far this year, 12 have landed inside the opposing 20 yard line, while just 32.4 percent have been returned. He averaged 41.1 net yards per punt, while his longest punt of the year has been 59 yards.
- Nick Jacobs, Memphis
Interestingly, Jacobs isn’t even the primary punter in Memphis, but he is their best one. Used almost exclusively as a coffin-punt specialist, Jacobs has yet to have a negatively graded punt from the 13 he has kicked. Eight of his punts have landed inside the opposing 20 yards line, but none of his punts have been returned so far this year.
- Austin Rekhow, Idaho
Rekhow is Idaho’s do it all specialist. He punts, he kicks off and he kicks field goals. This year he has gone 18-for-20 on field goal attempts, with all of those attempts coming inside 50 yards. As a punter he is tied for the highest single punt hang-time lead this year, with one punt staying in the air for an incredible 5.37 seconds. 17 of his 35 punts have landed inside the opposing 20 yard line, and just 10 have been returned.