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Special teams can be vastly underrated by football fans. Punters and returners help win the field position game, while kickers can win games by putting it through the uprights. Here’s a look at the top returning special teamers in 2012.
Oklahoma State punter/kicker Quinn Sharp had one of the best field-goal percentages in the nation a year ago. A senior in 2012, Sharp connected on 88-percent of his kicks, including the game-winner against Stanford in a wild Fiesta Bowl. Sharp has also been recognized as the Big 12 preseason first-team selection at both kicker and punter.
During his Florida career, Caleb Sturgis is 46-of-60 on field goal attempts and 96-of-101 on PATs. He currently ranks second all-time in UF history with 46 made field goals. His five field goals of 50-or-more yards are the most in school history. He ranked third in the nation with 22 field goals made in 2011 and averaged 1.83 field goals per game — the most of any returning kicker.
Idaho’s Bobby Cowan was second in the nation in punting average with 46.4 yards per kick. Cowan punted for 4,084 yards on 88 kicks, including two punts that were more than 70 yards. The senior was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2011 — the award given to the top punter in the nation.
Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen took home the 2011 Ray Guy Award — given to the nation’s top punter. He became only the second player for Louisana Tech to win a national award. Allen punted 83 times for 3,828 yards, avering a school-record 46.1 yards per punt, while leading the nation with 39 punts inside the 20 and 22 punts inside the 10.
Texas A&M’s Dustin Harris led the nation in punt returns with an 18.6 average, and had a 72-yard return for a touchdown against Kansas. Harris also set a school record with 162 punt return yards against the Jayhawks.
Wisconsin’s Abbrederis ranked third in the country, averaging 15.8 yards per punt return, second-best at UW in one season. He finished second in the Big Ten and 13th nationally with 1,999 all-purpose yards, which is the sixth-best single-season total in school history. The junior recorded 346 all-purpose yards in the Rose Bowl.
Purdue’s Mostert was only a freshman in 2011, but he still was the nation’s kickoff return leader, after he averaged 33.5 yards per return. Four of those returns were for 71 or more yards, including his only kickoff return for a touchdown in the Boilermakers’ bowl game against Western Michigan which went for 99 yards.
Also a true freshman, Western Kentucky’s John Evans finished second in the nation in kickoff return yardage by averaging 32.2 yards per return. Evans had two returns of more than 70 yards, including one for a touchdown.