One of the most under-the-radar performers for the Tar Heel football team heading into 2014 may be the starting punter, but he’s not being overlooked for the NCAA’s most prestigious award at his position.
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Having the ability to reverse the field position on an opponent is huge. It can often prove to be the difference between losing and winning a game.
And there’s likely no position more critical to this ‘flipping of the script’ than the punter – just ask LSU fans.
Australian American Brad Wing achieved national stardom during several nationally televised showdowns, most notably against rival Alabama, for his tremendous accuracy and leg strength, pinning opponents back inside their own 10-yard line with regularity. Wing is currently playing in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Although not as famous as his Bayou counterpart, Carolina’s Tommy Hibbard has that uncanny ability to change the complexion of a game with a single boot of his leg. The senior showed off his immense talents on more than a few occasions last season.
The Charlotte product averaged 43 yards per punt on 65 attempts in his junior campaign. Most notably, 25 of his kicks were downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Those kicks really pay dividends. They apply pressure on the opponent, make them contend with rowdy crowd noise surrounding the endzones, and open the door for vital, quality field position for the offense with a successful three and out.
The Augusta Sports Council is taking notice of Hibbard. They’ve recently named him to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is awarded to the nation’s premier collegiate punter.
After all, Hibbard spearheaded a Tar Heel unit that ranked fourth in the nation in punt return average, with opponents only managing to gain a mere 2.89 yards per return.
It can be easy to overlook a punter’s prowess. When these guys trot out onto the field, one set of fans is already disgusted at the offense’s inability to sustain a scoring drive. But a well executed, long bomb by the punter that pins the opponents back can demoralize the receiving squad.
So don’t forget about Hibbard. He may just turn out to be the X-factor in a pivotal game for the Tar Heels in 2014.