David Allen, KR, Kansas State--The 5'9", 195-pound junior
(above) this season tied an NCAA career record for punts
returned for touchdowns (seven) while averaging 13.9 yards on 28
returns and scoring twice.
Ray Cheetany, P/K, UNLV--The 5'11", 170-pound junior, who didn't
become the punter until the Rebels' third game, has been
stellar. He's averaging 45.6 yards per punt and either kicked
the ball out of bounds or rolled it dead inside the 20 a dozen
times. Forty-eight percent of his kickoffs have gone for
Caleb Hurd, Holder, Virginia Tech--The 6'2", 202-pound senior is
Hokies kicker Shayne Graham's cousin and a four-year starter as
holder. Since mishandling a snap on his first attempt, in 1996,
Hurd hasn't made a mistake. He salvaged a bad snap on Graham's
game-winning field goal against West Virginia on Nov. 6.
Sabastian Janikowski, K, Florida State--The 6'2", 255-pound
junior is a shoo-in to again win the Lou Groza Award, which goes
to the nation's best kicker. This season he has hit 47 of 47
PATs and 23 of 30 field goal attempts, including a 54-yarder,
and hasn't missed inside the 45-yard line. An astonishing 78% of
his kickoffs have gone for touchbacks.
J.R. Johnson, P/K coverage, Syracuse--The 6-foot, 210-pound
sophomore became the only player in Big East history to be named
special teams player of the week without touching the ball after
he had five coverage tackles against Michigan on Sept. 18. He
leads the Orangemen with 14 special teams tackles despite having
missed three games with a sprained right ankle.
Ben Kelly, KR, Colorado--The 5'10", 190-pound junior is averaging
29.5 yards per kickoff return this fall and has run back two
kickoffs for touchdowns. He's had two punt returns for touchdowns
nullified by penalties.
Brian Schmitz, P, North Carolina--The 6-foot, 165-pound senior
had plenty of opportunities to show off his leg, punting 74
times for the 3-8 Tar Heels this season. His 47.8-yard average
is second best in the nation.
Stevonne Smith, KR, Utah--The 6-foot, 180-pound junior leads the
nation in punt returns for touchdowns (three) this year. His
17.1 average per return is fourth highest in the country. He
also averages 28.2 yards per kickoff return.
Randy Stella, KR, Nebraska--When the 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore
isn't averaging 23.6 yards per kickoff return, he's setting up
the return as the Cornhuskers' wedge buster. He has also blocked
two field goal attempts.
Adalius Thomas, DE, Southern Mississippi--Not only is the 6'4",
252-pound senior the Golden Eagles' best defensive player, but
he's also their secret weapon on the field-goal-block team.
Thomas has used his 40-inch vertical leap to knock down four
kicks this season.
COLOR PHOTO: ORLIN WAGNER/AP