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June 11, 2014

Ranking the Big Ten: Punter

As Nebraska prepares for another run through the Big Ten Conference, HuskerOnline.com will get you ready with ranking analysis pieces breaking down each position in the league. Today, we look at the top punters in the Big Ten heading into 2014.

1. Mike Sadler, Michigan State, 6-0, 170, Sr.
One of the conference's more entertaining follows on Twitter (check out this great exchange with Fake Bo Pelini), Mike Sadler backs up his mouth with his foot. A two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Sadler punted a league-high 76 times last year, averaging 42.5 yards per boot. He averaged a staggering 59.2 yards per punt in four kicks against Indiana. And he's accurate too - 41 percent of his career punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line, including 24 percent inside the 10.
2. Cameron Johnston, Ohio State, 6-0, 195, Soph.
Cameron Johnston, a native of Greelong, Australia, and a former Australian rules football player, certainly didn't disappoint in his first season as the Buckeyes' starter. He led the conference with a 44.0-yard average and unleashed a 71-yard kick against Illinois. Thanks to Ohio State's explosive offensive, Johnston didn't get to show off his leg all that often - he had just 49 punts in 2013, the fewest of any starter in the Big Ten. But he proved to be very capable in his rookie campaign and should only improve as he continues to adjust to America's rules.
3. Will Hagerup, Michigan, 6-4, 225, Sr.
Will Hagerup may very well be the conference's best punter, just as he was in 2012 when he was named the Big Ten Punter of the Year. But he'll have to earn that designation back after being suspended for the entire 2013 season. In 2012, Hagerup set a school record by averaging 45.0 yards per punt, and 13 of his boots went for more than 50 yards. But he's already been suspended three times, and coach Brady Hoke has made it clear he's running out of chances.
4. Justin DuVernois, Illinois, 6-1, 190, Sr.
One of the conference's best punters in 2011 and 2012, Justin DuVernois got off to a bit of a rough start last season, shanking several punts in the opening weeks of the season. He rebounded to post another strong, though unspectacular, season. Duvernois isn't going to launch a bevy of booming punts, but he's a steady, reliable option on a team that could be punting quite a bit in 2014.
5. Sam Foltz, Nebraska, 6-1, 205, Soph.
If he had a bit longer track record, a good argument could be made for Sam Foltz to be higher on this list. He was everything Nebraska wanted him to be in his rookie campaign, ranking fourth in the Big Ten by averaging 41.6 yards per punt. Foltz pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line with punts 20 times in 2013, including a season-high four times at Penn State. There were moments of inconsistency here and there, but Foltz could very well make some All-Big Ten teams in the coming years.

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