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March 28, 2007

The 2007 Contenders: Groza/Ray Guy Awards

Though some may disagree, kickers and punters cannot be found on any street corner.

Sometimes they're sought with newspaper ads.

That's what Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach did last week when he placed an ad in the Daily Toreador, Tech's student newspaper. Leach was in search of a punter after injuries and defections left the Red Raiders without one this spring.

Every coach in America stresses the importance of the kicking game, but not all are willing to offer kickers and punters scholarships. That's like acknowledging a need for medicine, but refusing to buy it.

A good kicker and punter can make the difference between winning and losing, and the Lou Groza and Ray Guy awards have been established to recognize the best.

So, Rivals.com presents its top five contenders for both awards in 2007. Rest assured none joined their teams by answering a want-ad.

Groza Award contenders
1. Alexis Serna, Oregon State: The 2005 Groza Award winner, Serna hit 22 of 29 field goals last season but converted four of six from 50 yards or farther. He made a long of 58 yards. He hit a 40-yarder with just more than a minute remaining to clinch a victory over Oregon.
2. Sam Swank, Wake Forest: Swank was perfect on 32 extra point attempts and converted 21 of 27 field goal tries. He hit five of seven field goals from 50 yards or farther. He provided all of the Deacons' points in their ACC championship game victory over Georgia Tech.
3. Garrett Hartley, Oklahoma: When the Sooners got inside their opponents' 30-yard line they were going to score. Hartley made all 15 field goals he attempted inside 40 yards and was 19 of 20 overall. His only failed attempt was blocked on the final play of a loss to Oregon. He also hit 49 of 50 extra-point tries.
4. Art Carmody, Louisville: The 2006 Groza Award recipient, Carmody made 21 of 25 field goal attempts. He was 5-for-5 from 40 yards out and hit a long attempt of 51 yards. He was also perfect of 60 extra-point tries.
5. Brandon Coutu, Georgia: A torn hamstring interrupted his season last year, but Coutu hit 10 of 11 field goals. He converted three, including a 51-yarder, in the Bulldogs' Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

Ray Guy Award contenders
1. Durant Brooks, Sr., Georgia Tech: A Ray Guy Award finalist and second team All-American last season, Brooks ranked fourth in the nation with a 45.6-yard average and second with a 40.66 net average. He had 27 punts of 50 yards or longer and had 35 punts killed inside the 20-yard line.
2. Chris Miller, Sr., Ball State: Last season Miller averaged 46.3 yards on 57 kicks with a long of 78 yards. He killed 20 inside the 20-yard line, but had one blocked.
3. Britton Colquitt, Jr., Tennessee: The Colquitts are to punting what 'The Flying Wallendas" were to high-wire acts. Colquitts rank first, second and third on Tennessee's career punting list. Britton the latest is climbing the chart. Last season he averaged 44.9 yards per punt with 18 killed inside the 20.
4. Matt Fodge, Jr., Oklahoma State: Fodge averaged 44.9 yards on 50 punts, which included a 72-yard best. He also pinned opponents inside the 20 on 14 occasions.
5. Ryan Succop, Jr., South Carolina: Actually, a better case could be made for him to be on the Groza list. However, he's an exceptional punter as well. He didn't get enough punts last season to qualify among national leaders, but he averaged 43.7 yards on 29 attempts and had seven downed inside the 20. He also dodged the rush to avoid a blocked punt against Mississippi State and ran for a first down.

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