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Mountain West specialists get their due on Ray Guy, Lou Groza watch lists

The conference’s best could make or break their teams’ fortunes in 2016.

NCAA Football: Boise State at Utah State Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The last couple years have been very good to the punters and kickers of the Mountain West. Now, the conference’s specialist stars are getting plenty of recognition for their potential contributions in 2016.

Colorado State’s Hayden Hunt and San Jose State’s Michael Carrizosa were Ray Guy Award finalists last winter, the trophy given annually to the nation’s top punter, and now they are joined by Nevada’s Alex Boy and Wyoming’s Ethan Wood on this summer’s watch list.

Carrizosa and Hunt both finished in the top five nationally in yards per punt, while Boy ended up just inside the top 50 and Wood just outside of it. Each has as good a shot as anyone as bringing the MWC another finalist nod with another big year, now that two-time Guy winner Tom Hackett has moved on to the NFL ranks.

Meanwhile, kickers in the conference earned interest from the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s best player at that position, as Nevada’s Brett Zuzo and Boise State’s Tyler Rausa made the list. There’s little doubt the two were the best in the Mountain West a year ago — Zuzo was one of ten kickers to attempt at least fifteen field goals and make at least 85% of them, while Rausa proved to have a strong leg of his own by making 8 of 12 from beyond 40 yards.

It remains to be seen whether Zuzo or Rausa can maintain that degree of excellence; they’ll have to if they want to follow last year’s winner, former UCLA Bruin Ka’imi Fairbairn.