These top returning punters in college football possess the ability to pin opponents deep, and shift the tenor of a game with one boot of the ball.
The punter is often vastly unheralded in college football, yet he has the potential to be a defense’s best friend. Punters get an opportunity to not only showcase their leg strength each game, but also their accuracy, pinning opponents deep in their own end of the field. And when they float the ball in the air for what seems to be an eternity, it negates the playmaking ability of the other guy’s return man. While they may not be household names, these punters will profoundly affect their teams’ overall performance in 2017.
5. Joseph Davidson, Bowling Green
Davidson has been one of the silver linings for a defense that has struggled badly over the past three seasons. He’s a 6-foot-7, 228-pounder with a booming left leg that he’s been unleashing since his redshirt freshman season in 2014. Davidson, who also holds a 3.94 GPA, has been named First Team All-MAC in each of the past two seasons, as he perfects his craft and works on his hang time. He finished No. 6 nationally with a 45.7-yard average in 2016, while only three of his 61 punts went into the end zone for a touchback.
4. Johnny Townsend, Florida
Townsend is one-half of arguably the premier kicking tandem in college football entering 2017. He led the nation in punting a year ago with an average of 47.9 yards, but the senior also employs outstanding touch with his right foot. An impressive 27 of his 64 punts in 2016 landed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, providing an added boost to an already salty Gator D. Townsend has the pop and the experience to vie for All-America honors in his Gainesville finale.
3. JK Scott, Alabama
Scott has been a fixture for the Crimson Tide special teams unit since leaving Denver for Tuscaloosa in 2014. The 6-6, 202-pounder is averaging more than 46 yards per punt over the past three seasons, driving his leg into the ball with impressive force. Scott, a Second Team All-American a year ago, has also excelled at flipping the field with his powerful foot and ball placement, a hidden benefit to the always-stout Bama defense.
2. Michael Dickson, Texas
Dickson’s second season in Austin was one of the best by a punter in Longhorn history. He was the program’s first-ever finalist for the Ray Guy Award and was named the Big 12 Conference Special Teams Player of the Year after ranking No. 3 nationally with an average of 47.4 yards per punt. Dickson is the latest in a growing line of Australians to excel at American football, and he’s still on the ascent as he learns the finer points of the game and the position.
1. Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
Wishnowsky picked up where Tom Hackett left off, keeping the Ray Guy Award in Salt Lake City for a third year in a row. Wishnowsky ranked No. 2 nationally with an average of 47.7 yards a punt, but was unmatched at pinning opponents deep in their own territory. The Aussie showcased remarkable accuracy and foot control, leading the country in punts inside the 10-yard line and not having a single touchback over the final 12 games of the season.