The start of the college football season is just a few short weeks away and it promises to be an entertaining race in the Big Ten. Now, if you are an Ohio State fan, you are hoping it is not too interesting, especially after coming up short last season. But the other 13 teams have scholarships and uniforms too and there is no denying that there is plenty of talent spread out around this conference.
It got us to thinking about the top players at specific positions going into the season. Ohio State fans are always well-aware of who their favorite team has but what about the rest of the teams in the league?
We can’t leave out the kickers and punters. Sure, there are plenty of jokes out there about specialists during practice and about how nobody knows their names. Mess something up and everyone will know your name and you will be looking for the first bus out of town.
We didn’t want to include returners in this list mostly to focus on kickers and punters, but it is also hard to really know at this point of the year who will be returning kicks and punts week one, or week three even.
So for our final kicks, let’s talk kickers and punters.
5. Bryce Baringer – Michigan State
We start with a punter and Baringer set a school single-season record with a 48.4-yard punting average for the 2021 season, second in Big Ten history (Reggie Roby – 49.8 – Iowa).
He was named second-team All-B1G by both the coaches and the media for his efforts and his numbers were good to be ranked No. 5 overall in FBS for the season.
Baringer is not only a big leg but also has the finesse needed to be successful with at least one punt inside the 20-yard-line in 11 games last season and also dropped 10 punts inside the 10-yard-line over the course of the season.
4. Chad Ryland – Maryland
The Terps were not a great kicking team last season to the tune of 14-21 on field goal attempts, including being 5-10 from 40 yards and beyond. When you are a bit of an underdog in your division with the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan all in your division, you can’t leave points out on the field.
Enter Chad Ryland of Eastern Michigan. He is a career record holder at EMU for PATs and was 19-22 on field goal attempts last season, 7-8 from outside of 40 yards.
Ryland also holds the current active streak of 17 consecutive makes from across the nation.
3. Adam Korsak – Rutgers
Our highest ranked punter on the list, Korsak has been on the Ray Guy Watch List every season of his career and was a finalist for the award after the 2021 season.
Korsak’s net punt was an astonishing 45.25 YPP, good enough to get the Rutgers punter named to the 2nd-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation.
Of course, you can enter the joke that when you are Rutgers, you have ample opportunity to punt the ball, but that does not always mean you will punt it well. Korsak on the other hand is a weapon.
2. Jake Moody – Michigan
The Michigan kicker was 23-25 on his field goal attempts in 2021 and connected on 56 PATs while also handling kickoff duties.
And he won the Lou Groza Award over our Number One player as well as winning the Big Ten kicker of the year (Bakken-Andersen Award).
There was a divide however on how the coaches and media viewed the race in the Big Ten with Moody getting the first team nod from the coaches but a third-team designation from the media.
1. Noah Ruggles – Ohio State
Ruggles was 20 of 21 on field goal attempts last season but no kick was bigger than the game winner in the Rose Bowl where he lifted the Buckeyes to a 48-45 win over Utah after a back-and-forth game.
His .952 mark in 2021 is a single season record for the Ohio State football program. Ruggles also was a perfect 74-74 on PAT attempts last season and is 119-119 all time (including his time at North Carolina).
Ruggles was named a first-team All-American by ESPN and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award.