Football: Statistical comparison of the State of Utah's punters

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17 2012 7:19 p.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars kicker Riley Stephenson (99) gets the punt away by UCF's Brandon Alexander in Provo Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. BYU won 24-17.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sean Sellwood, the University of Utah's punter, is leading the nation, averaging 48.4 yards per kick.

While certainly commendable, this statistic is not representative of a team's collective success. It means every time a team has not scored a touchdown, attempted a field goal or turned the ball over, the punter has been trotted out there to do his job. When this is the case, the punter--in this case Sean Sellwood--has done his job extremely well.

Larger context in terms of how Sellwood's punting has helped his team can be obtained by comparing his punting yardage statistic to total number of punts, total number of offensive drives, and the percentage of how many of those drives ended up in punts. Also relevant are numbers of turnovers, touchdowns and field goal attempts.

Comparative context can also be obtained by comparing Sellwood's punting to his in-state counterparts, BYU's Riley Stephenson and USU's Tyler Bennett.

Here are some of the items I observed comparing the punting statistics of Utah's three major programs.

Riley Stephenson is also a commendable punter. He is fifth in the nation in average yards per punt, and despite BYU's turnover woes, the Cougar offense has been significantly more effective than Utah's, leading the Utes in touchdowns, field goal attempts, and number of drives.

The Cougars also are better than Utah at turning the ball over. In fact, they're best in the state.

Utah is having a hard time getting the ball. In every statistic except for average punting yards, the Utes are last in the state. This is indicative of Utah's struggle to sustain drives, particularly in the run game.

When the Utes get the ball, they're pretty good at avoiding punts. In fact, they're better than BYU, and considering they have turned the ball over considerably less than both the Aggies or Cougars, it's fair to say that the offense is doing it's job fairly well, comparatively.

The fact that the Utes have considerably fewer drives than BYU or USU probably means that their defense can't get the ball back, neither by forcing punts nor by turning the ball over. Also, it could mean that when the Utes get the ball, they are scoring quickly and their opponents are not.

The fact both BYU and USU have significantly more possessions on the season than Utah is probably indicative of the effectiveness of the defense in getting the ball back in the hands of the offense.

The fact that USU leads in punting yards, total punts and offensive touchdowns is indicative of a high-powered offense in Logan, compared to their opponents. Their opponents haven't been successful in moving the ball, and the Aggies are scoring quickly. For example, USU had the ball for 21 minutes and 36 seconds against San Jose State--a clear disadvantage--but won the game 49 to 27 on big plays from Kerwynn Williams.

Despite BYU's kicking struggles, they've put more effort into--or perhaps had more opportunity for--field goals than either USU or Utah.

And finally, the most obvious fact: When Bennett is asked to do his job, he does it better than anyone else in the country.

Landon Hemsley is Sports Content Manager for DeseretNews.com. @EarlOfHemsley

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