In a tightly bunched conference, every yard will matter this season in the Big East. The saying may be cliché, but could be true as field position will be critical throughout the season. Several top teams in the league will depend on their punters to place added pressure on opposing offenses.
1. Pat O'Donnell, junior, Cincinnati
The Bearcats punter arguably has the strongest leg in the league. In 2011, O'Donnell led the Big East in punting with a 43.6 yard average including a season-long of 76. Of O'Donnell's 63 punts, 26 landed inside the 20. With several marquee defensive players from last season's team gone, it will be critical for O'Donnell to provide the defense with ideal field position.
2. Brandon McManus, senior, Temple
The senior handles kicking and punting duties for the Owls and may finish the season in the top five in the conference in both categories. Had McManus played in the Big East in 2011, he would have led the league in punting with a 45.8 yard average. The Owls will depend heavily on McManus in the upcoming season. Temple lost more on defense from last year than almost any team in the conference.
3. Cole Wagner, junior, Connecticut
The Huskies punter arguably has the best hang time in the league. In 2011, UConn opponents had 29 fair catches on punts from Wagner. By comparison, only nine of O'Donnell's punts resulted in fair catches last season. Uconn has nine returning starters on defense and could cause trouble for opposing offense by frequently pinning them in their own end.
4. Matt Yoklic, junior, Pittsburgh
In 2011, Yoklic finished second in the Big East in punting with a 41.1 yard average. Yoklic also had 21 punts inside the 20 last season. Like Wagner, Yoklic displayed impressive hang time as nearly 40 percent of his punts resulted in fair catches. A relatively inexperienced defense will count on Yoklic to provide them with strong field position.
5. Justin Doerner, senior, Rutgers
While Doerner ranked fourth in the conference last year in punting average (40.3), he still earned All-Big East second-team accolades at the end of the season. The Scarlet Knights' punter helped pin back opposing offenses by placing 24 punts inside the 20. Rutgers could have one of the most stifling defenses in FBS in 2012. It may enable Doerner to place even more inside the 20.
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