Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here are the five members of this year's 2011 Ray Guy Award watch list, as determined by the Augusta Sports Council:
Bryan Anger (Sr.), California
Drew Butler (Sr.), Georgia
Kyle Martens (Sr.), Rice
Quinn Sharp (Jr.), Oklahoma State
Dawson Zimmerman (Sr.), Clemson
Obviously, Drew Butler (yes, the son of former Dawg kicker Kevin Butler) is the big name here, as he won the award as a sophomore in 2009 (see right) and was a finalist again last season. But compared to some of the other names on the list, Butler was a little -- just a little -- disappointing in 2010.
His 44.5 yards per punt were only good for 17th in the nation. Fortunately, Butler so rarely committed a touchback or outkicked his coverage that the Bulldogs still averaged more than 40 yards net per punt, which ranked fourth in the NCAA. Butler also uncorked a 50-yard punt in every game but two last year: the last two games of the regular season against Auburn and Georgia Tech, both of whose defenses were so cruelly porous that they only generated two opportunities for Butler to punt each game. Give Butler three opportunities, and he's going 50 at least once.
Past that, Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp has a cannon of a leg, and he was second in the nation in punting average last year (the Cowboys were third in net punting average). With Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon both coming back in 2011, the Cowboys may not have a great deal of opportunities to punt this season, but as long as we're keeping track of punts by average yardage instead of total, Sharp should be fine.
One quibble, though, and I know this is just a watch list, but where the heck is UCLA punter Jeff Locke?
The senior is recovering from a hip injury that has kept him out of spring drills, so perhaps that's why he was left off the list. But a) UCLA expects him to be healthy for fall camp, and b) the man bombs. He has registered 34 touchbacks on kickoffs over the last two years; UCLA led the nation in net punting average last year; and Locke plays on a team with such a, shall we say, punt-intensive offense that he'll have loads of opportunities to show off his leg in 2011.
If his hip's working the way UCLA expects it to, he'll be a finalist for this award, when the list really matters.