WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award. The celebration presented by the Orange Bowl Committee will recognize three finalists at a gala awards banquet in Palm Beach County on Dec. 5. This year's watch list is headlined by three past finalists, 19 former semifinalists, and some of the best emerging talent in college football. It’s a highly competitive year on the 30-player Watch List for the 2016 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award, as announced by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.Last year’s winner, Ka’imi Fairbairn, is now a Houston Texan, making this the first season since 2012 that the reigning Groza winner does not return to defend the honor. But last year’s two other finalists, Auburn junior Daniel Carlson and Memphis senior Jake Elliott, are back to vie for the award once again. West Virginia senior Josh Lambert, who was a finalist in 2014, makes it three former finalists to look out for.
They are joined by 16 other kickers who have previously been named semifinalists, including Utah senior Andy Phillips, who has earned the honor in each of his first three years. To put that consistency in perspective, Elliott, Cincinnati junior Andrew Gantz and Arizona State senior Zane Gonzalez are the only other active kickers who have been semifinalists even twice.
Ten kickers return to FBS coming off seasons in which they attempted at least 15 field goals and made them at a rate of at least 85%, and all 10 made the Watch List: Oregon junior Aidan Schneider (91.7), Nevada senior Brent Zuzo (89.5), UConn senior Bobby Puyol (88.9), Notre Dame sophomore Justin Yoon (88.2), Texas Tech sophomore Clayton Hatfield (87.5), North Carolina senior Nick Weiler (87.0), California junior Matt Anderson (85.7), Carlson (85.2), Phillips (85.2) and Idaho senior Austin Rehkow (85.2).
Among returning kickers who made at least 70% of their field goals, 11 kicked at least seven from 40 or more yards out, all of whom made the Watch List: Nebraska junior Drew Brown (13), Virginia Tech junior Joey Slye (13), Elliott (10), Miami (FL) junior Michael Badgley (8), Carlson (8), Phillips (8), Boise State senior Tyler Rausa (8), Rehkow (8), Gantz (7), Alabama senior Adam Griffith (7) and Minnesota junior Ryan Santoso (7).
While nearly all of the Watch List members are upperclassmen, four sophomores earned their way on after stellar freshman years, including Clemson’s Greg Huegel, who led the nation in field goals (27) and points (138). Huegel is joined by Hatfield, Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert and Yoon.
|Michael Badgley||Miami (Fla.)|
|Jonathan Barnes||Louisiana Tech|
|Elliott Fry||South Carolina|
|Zane Gonzalez||Arizona State|
|Ben Grogan||Oklahoma State|
|Clayton Hatfield||Texas Tech|
|Josh Lambert||West Virginia|
|Tyler Rausa||Boise State|
|Joey Slye||Virginia Tech|
|Cameron Van Winkle||Washington|
|Nick Weiler||North Carolina|
|Justin Yoon||Notre Dame|
While the watch list highlights 30 of the best returning kickers in the country, the Groza Committee will be watching all FBS kickers during the season and release a weekly “Stars of the Week” feature on www.lougrozaaward.com. All FBS kickers remain eligible to be selected as semifinalists.
Accomplishments are tabulated throughout the season and the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award will announce its 20 semifinalists on Thursday, Nov. 3. From this list, a panel of more than 100 FBS head coaches, SIDs, media members, former Groza finalists and current NFL kickers selects the top three finalists for the award by Tuesday, Nov. 22. That same group then selects the national winner, who will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 8 during the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.
The award is named for National Football League Hall of Fame kicker Lou “The Toe” Groza, who played 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Groza won four NFL championships with Cleveland and was named NFL Player of the Year in 1954. Although an All-Pro offensive lineman as well, Groza ushered in the notion that there should be a place on an NFL roster for a kicker.
For more information on the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award and to see the “Stars of the Week” throughout the season, please go to www.lougrozaaward.com.