Top Returning Group of Five, Independent Kickers For 2017

When drives stall this fall, these Group of Five kickers have the best leg talent to split the uprights and put points on the board from any distance.

Lou Groza Award voters and committee members will pay close attention to everyone who puts toe to leather this season. It’s an essential part of the responsibility of anointing the nation’s top kicker. However, there’s a real good chance those decision-makers will spend a lot of time focused on two specific conferences, the SEC out of the Power Five and the Mountain West among the Group of Five. All six of the Mountain West kickers who hit at least 88% of their field goal attempts in 2016 return, headlined by San Diego State’s John Baron, Air Force’s Luke Strebel and New Mexico’s Jason Sanders, but also including UNLV’s Evan Pantels, San Jose State’s Bryce Crawford and Fresno State’s Kody Kroening.

Top Returning Group Of Five, Independent Kickers

5. Louie Zervos, Ohio

4. Jason Sanders, New Mexico

3. Jonathan Barnes, Louisiana Tech

2. Luke Strebel, Air Force

Troy Calhoun has a bunch of holes that need to be filled this season. In Strebel, though, he welcomes back for one more year the most accurate kicker in Academy history. He has been the perfect antidote for stalled drives the past two seasons, calmly connecting on 32-of-36 field goal attempts and all 88 of his extra point tries. As a junior, the Nashville native hit 22-of-25 three-pointers to earn Second Team All-Mountain West.

1. John Baron, San Diego State

It didn’t take very long for Baron to allay any concerns about breaking in a new kicker on the Mesa in 2016. Despite no practical experience at this level, the strong-legged southpaw delivered well beyond expectations, as well as beyond predecessor Donny Hageman. Baron was true on 21-of-23 field goal tries, including a long of 50 yards, to set Aztec records and be voted to the All-Mountain West First Team. After being named a Groza Award semifinalist a year ago, he’s capable of making a serious run at the award in 2017.