The art of punting has changed over the years. Now, it’s time for statisticians to take note.The NCAA ranks its punting leaders according to average per attempt. What a shame. That tells only part of the story. Several years ago, net punting gained traction as a measure and, recently, it’s become fashionable to record punts downed inside the 20-yard line. When a team downs a punt inside the opponent’s 20 (for the rest of this blog I’ll label as “I20”), it’s a huge advantage. But, that advantage is lost on the punts that trickle into the end zone as touchbacks. There is a thin margin between “I20” punts and touchbacks. I’m suggesting a new ratio – “I20”:touchbacks – should be introduced in the punting stats. For a quick study, consider Iowa State’s Kirby Van Der Kamp. Van Der Kamp leads the Big 12 with 24 punts downed “I20” this season. The second-best total in the Big 12 is 14. Only two of Kirby’s 55 attempts have been touchbacks. That’s tied for the third-fewest in the league. Van Der Kamp’s skill in placing kicks is rare and a huge asset for his team. Van Der Kamp has an incredible 12:1 ratio for “I20” punts per touchback. The NCAA’s current Top Ten ranked punters have combined for a 2.8:1 ratio of “I20” punts per touchback. The transformation in recordkeeping for passing stats has grown from total yards to completion percentage to the ratio of TDs:interceptions to pass efficiency. There has been an evolution. If the statisticians would employ better measures to gauge punting success, Van Der Kamp might get his proper due. Ranking punters on raw average is short sighted.
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