After finishing as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2015, Colorado State standout punter Hayden Hunt was named to the preseason watch list for the same award in 2016, the Augusta Sports Council announced Thursday.
The 2015 All-American is one of 27 candidates named on the watch list and coming off of a season where he was top-five nationally in yards per punt and net punting average, the Long Beach, Calif. Native will be one of the early front runner’s for the award in his senior season.
Hunt ranked first among the award’s 10 semifinalists for percentage of punts inside the 20 and fewest touchbacks, second for net average and fourth four gross average, but the award was given to Utah’s Tom Hackett, whom became the award’s first back-to-back winner.
Hunt was a weapon for the Rams in 2015, often flipping the field and giving the opponent a long field to score on. Of Hunt’s 52 punts, 15 were over 50 yards, 24 were marked down within the opponent’s 20-yard line, 18 were fair caught and only one went into the endzone for a touchback.
His first punt at UTSA (Sept. 26) traveled 56 yards and went out of bounds at the 2-yard line, setting up a safety two plays later. When the Minnesota Golden Gophers came to town (Sept. 12), he had a 73-yard punt downed at the 2-yard line. Hunt’s punt was the eighth longest punt in school history and the longest in three years. For his efforts, Hunt was named the Ray Guy Award Player of the Week on Sept. 14.
Against Air Force on Oct. 17, Hunt had three punts land inside the 5, and even had a punt downed at the 1, which resulted in a quick punt and CSU touchdown. In a road win at Wyoming (Nov. 7), Hunt’s 67-yard punt went out at the 5-yard line; Three plays later, the Cowboys turned the ball over, setting up a Rams score.
Hunt came up big for the Rams in 2015 and Mike Bobo and company will hope to see similar results from their special teams star in 2016.
Ten semifinalists will be announced on Nov. 1, before three finalists are named on Nov. 22. From there, the voting body will cast ballots again to select the nation’s top punter, with the winner being announced live during The Home Depot College Football Awards show on Dec. 8 on ESPN.
Hunt joins center Jake Bennett who was named to the Rimington Award Watch List yesterday, as the only CSU players on national watch lists thus far.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JustinTMichael