On Monday Max Smith was revealed to be the starting quarterback for the Cats and fans thought the last great mystery of the football season was over. That is until practice on Tuesday when Coach Phillips revealed that he knew the identity of the starting punter but would not be telling who the player was. Last weekend I compiled the evidence and facts in an attempt to discover the mysterious freshman wide receiver. This week Detective Cassady is back on the case to find out which foot will be the next great member of PunterU. Here are the likely suspects:
Joe Mansour has played the role of “kickoff specialist” during his first two seasons in Lexington. Last year he kicked off in all twelve games and accumulated 14 touchbacks. This year he could add punter to his list of duties which include backing up auto-McIntosh on field goal duty. Joker may not want to risk Joe’s legs with punting as he will be playing a couple of different roles this year. Expect Mansour to remain a part of KickerU.
Jay Willmott hails from Georgetown, KY, just up the road from Lexington. Last year the man with the big boot walked-on to the team and was given a redshirt. This year he is competing for the coveted punting title. In high school the guy averaged 41 yards per punt and those numbers have to have improved with a year of on campus practice. Willmott could be the guy to turn the tide in the ever present field battle in games this year but his profile on UK athletics says he needs to work on consistency. Perhaps he has found that during this summer’s practices and will be our starting punter.
Foster is most likely the man for the job. In high school he averaged 41.3 yards per punt. Since arriving on campus Joker called him the fastest punter he has ever seen. That combination should earn Foster the starting job. We need a punter with speed against the lighting quick special teams play of the SEC. Hopefully Foster will be able to step in and with his leg known as “white-lightning” avoid any blocked punts all season long.
Dark Horse: Jalen Whitlow
Whitlow was brought to campus for his skills as quarterback but mainly for being a top-tier athlete. Perhaps he has added punting to his impressive skill set. Kentucky has had a couple of great punter/quarterback football players over the years. NFL hall of famer George Blanda played QB and kicked for four decades. John Short’s favorite QB Randy Jenkins did both back in the early eighties. Perhaps Whitlow can develop a punting ability and give us a fourth down wildcat option that can punt if he is in trouble. The ultimate triple-threat. If we can win with a wide receiver at quarterback perhaps a quarterback at punter wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
If the offense is stagnant at times like it was last year the punting position could be the most important one on the team. Last year the Cats had to punt 80 times with an average of 6.7 per game. Hopefully that number will be much lower this year but if not, there are three solid feet ready to take PunterU to the next level.