Are kickers and punters devalued? We have previewed every position grouping in the conference except for special-teamers -- until now. A stable of talented kickers in the Big East would certainly disagree.
Of South Florida's seven losses in 2011, several came in the final seconds. The Bulls had four defeats of six points or less and three decided by a field goal. The difference between an average and exceptional kicker could be the difference between a below .500 season and a trip to a BCS game.
Top 5 kickers in the Big East
1. Maikon Bonani, senior, USF
For Skip Holtz's team to avoid the stinging defeats from last season, the Bulls will depend on Bonani in clutch situations. Bonani finished second in the Big East last season in points (99), averaging 8.2 points per game. The USF kicker displayed accuracy on long-distance attempts, connecting on six of 10 field goals from 40 yards or longer. For the season, he hit 19 of 26 field goals (73.1 percent) and made all 42 of his PATs.
2. Ross Krautman, junior, Syracuse
The return of senior wide receiver Marcus Sales will likely add explosiveness to the Orange offense. Krautman figures to benefit from the added offensive output. Though Krautman led the conference in field goal percentage last season (78.9), he only had 19 attempts. Krautman went 33 of 34 on extra points but attempted eight fewer than Bonani. The junior may be the favorite to win the league's scoring title.
3. Kevin Harper, senior, Pittsburgh
Harper proved to have a strong leg with a season-high 52-yard field goal in 2011. The Pantherskicker connected on 1-of-3 attempts from 50 yards or beyond. Harper could improve his accuracy in his senior season. Last year, he missed 10 of his 31 attempts. With the return of senior running back Ray Graham and the addition freshman back Rushel Shell, Harper will likely have plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
4. Tony Miliano, sophomore, Cincinnati
Miliano had a solid freshman season in 2011. The Bearcats kicker finished fifth in the conference in field goals made per game (1.31) and fifth in field goal percentage (68.0). Miliano connected on eight of 12 attempts from 40-49 yards but didn't attempt a kick from 50 or beyond. If possible, coach Butch Jones should test Miliano's leg strength before the meat of the Big East schedule.
5. Brandon McManus, senior, Temple
McManus already holds school records for career field goals (46) and extra points made in a season (50). He is accurate from shorter distances, but like Miliano didn't attempt a field goal from past 50 yards last year. In 2011, McManus connected on 16 of 22 attempts (72.7 percent). If the Owls played in the Big East last season, he would have tied for fourth in field-goal percentage.
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