Recruiting season is behind us, and Spring football has already started for some Mountain West programs. We are going to continue previewing position units in the Mountain West. Please remember that with the extra COVID year, there is some uncertainty on each roster heading into Spring football. With that being said, let’s take a look at how each team currently sits in the kicking game.
The Broncos return the best kicker in the conference in Jonah Dalmas. Dalmas will look to extend his range past 50 yards this year, but he is arguably the best kicker Boise State has ever had and has the potential to kick on Sundays. The real intrigue comes at punter, where the Broncos currently have two players on scholarship in Gavin Wale and Australian James Ferguson-Reynolds. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Ferguson-Reynolds.
The Rams bring back a solid kicker in Cayden Camper. Camper connected on 25 of his 32 field goal attempts last season.. but they have a hole to fill at punter after losing Ryan Stonehouse. Stonehouse will likely be kicking on Sundays.
This was a close one for me. The Rainbow Warriors rely heavily on Matthew Shipley as both a kicker and a punter. Shipley has been a very productive kicker making 26 of his 35 attempts. But there is a lot of room for growth as a punter, where he has only averaged 41.5 yards in his career.
The kicking game was a glaring weakness for this team last year. They missed nine field goal attempts, more than any team in the conference. They also finished seventh in the conference in punting averaging 42.5 yards per punt. If they want to contend for a championship again, they will need to improve on special teams.
The Rebels still haven’t updated their roster, so I am unsure if Daniel Gutierrez is returning at kicker. If he is, that is a huge lift to the Rebels. But the “bad” category is a safe bet for the Rebels either way because their punting was awful last season. Punter Evan Silva finished eleventh in the conference managing only 40.2 yards per attempt.
San Jose State
The Spartans will be looking for a new punter after Michigan transfer Will Hart had a solid season for the Spartans. San Jose State does return their starting kicker in Matt Mercurio. Mercurio made a respectable 15 of 19 field goal attempts, but uncertainty in the punting game has me placing the Spartans in the “bad” category.
The kicking game was not a strong suit for the Cowboys this past fall. John Hoyland made only 10 of his 14 field goal attempts and punter Ralph Fawaz finished sixth in the conference averaging 42.5 yards per punt. While these numbers are not awful, Wyoming will look to improve in both of these categories.
The Wolf Pack will be looking to replace one of the most productive punters in the conference, Julian Diaz. Diaz was a sure-footed punter that was consistent in flipping the field. Luckily for Nevada, they do have a solid kicker in place with Brandon Talton. Talton has a strong leg, but Talton had his worst year since joining the team, missing 8 of his 30 field goal attempts.
San Diego State
It is rare when the biggest loss on the roster comes from your kicker/punter. Araiza will likely be the highest-drafted kicker/punter this year and is an instant starter in the NFL. That kind of production is difficult to replace. But the Aztecs have a history of finding productive kickers, it will be interesting to see if they can find one guy to replace Araiza or if they will need two or three.
The Lobos attempted only 13 field goals last season, missing four of them. Some of that falls on an offense that struggled to move the ball. But if that average held true with more attempts, it could be fatal to a team that needs a consistent kicker. New Mexico was also below average in the punting game, finishing eighth in the conference.
The Bulldogs will be looking to replace a solid kicker in Cesar Silva. But a bigger concern might be in the punting game. Carson King is coming back, but the Bulldogs finished ninth in the conference in punting, a stat they will definitely look to improve upon this fall.
The Falcons do most things well, but kicking and punting were not one of them this past season. Now before I sound too harsh, it is important to note that the Falcons attempted only ten field goals this past fall. But, they were the only team in the conference to average less than 40 yards per punt. For a team like Air Force that dominates time of possession and relies on flipping the field, these are numbers they will want to improve.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Which team has the best kicking game in the conference? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.