Tyler Bennett is getting a lot of national attention; or should we say, his leg is getting a lot of attention. In his two years at Utah State, the senior punter has made a definite impact on special teams.
Coming from the junior college leagues where he earned second-team All-American honors, Bennett finished his sophomore season ranked among the best nationally, averaging 43.7 yards per punt.
Utah State associate head coach and special teams coordinator Bill Busch saw Bennett in action at Phoenix (Ariz.) Junior College and knew he wanted him to be a part of the Aggie program.
“I knew his head coach really well and had a few chances to see him play. He was a junior college All-American and was the No. 1 punter as far as averages go,” Busch said. “We knew we had a good player in him right there.”
Bennett has held up to those expectations and continues to be successful in his kicks. Even before his first season as an Aggie, Bennett was named to the Ray Guy Award Watch List, which identifies the nation’s top collegiate punter. After his junior year, he was named second-team all-Western Athletic Conference by College Sports Madness, as well as earning third-team Phil Steele’s College Football Preview Postseason all-WAC honors.
As a junior, Bennett booted 58 punts for a total of 2,542 yards. He finished the season ranked 16th in the nation in punting, just improving from his junior college average with 43.8 yards per punt. He had 15 punts of 50-plus yards and a long of 67 yards, as well as 21 punts downed inside the 20 yardline. He tallied a career-best 54.3 yards per punt average against Weber State.
After such a good year the first time around, Bennett began to get even more recognition heading into his final year of college.
Named to the College Football Performance Award Watch List, Phil Steele’s preseason all-WAC College Football Preview third-team, as well as another Ray Guy Award Watch List nod, Bennett has a lot to live up to this season.
He took that to heart and has continued to consistently kick the football long and hard. For three of the six weeks of the season so far, Bennett has brought in awards for the Aggies.
It all started after the game against Utah. Bennett brought home WAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, the first Aggie special teams player to do so since Kevin Robinson in 2007. In that week’s action, Bennett set a new career high with nine punts for an average of 45.3 yards per kick with a long kick of 59 yards. That night, he also had four punts downed inside the 20 yardline, another career high.
Two weeks later, Bennett joined teammates Zach Vigil and Kerwynn Williams, earning national recognition from College Football Performance Awards after Utah State’s 31-19 road win at Colorado State.
In case that wasn’t enough, Bennett finally achieved his goal of being named the National Punter of the Week. In a 35-13 home win against UNLV, Bennett punted five times for an average of 47.4 yards. All five of those punts were pinned inside the 20 yardline, once again notching another career high. For his performance, Bennett was named the College Football Performance Awards National Punter of the Week.
“Last year we got co-punter of the week nationally, twice. Then this year we finally snagged National Punter of the Week. They only give 12 of those away, so I thought that was pretty cool,” Bennett said. “Being the WAC Player of the Week (for special teams) was pretty fun too.”
Bennett isn’t ready to stop there, though. With the second half of the season still left to play, Bennett is ready to keep kicking the ball and keep kicking it hard.
“I’ve accomplished one of my goals already being named the National Punter of the Week. I still can’t believe I got that,” Bennett said. “I’d love to become a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, but that’s tough to get. I have to have a great average and keep kicking the ball like I’ve been doing.”
A player can’t garner this much respect and attention without consistency and dedication.
“He’s done a lot for us with his consistency. He’s got a big-time leg, which a lot of people have, but you have to be able to execute that in the games, and he’s done that,” Busch said.
Without feeling the need to elaborate, Bennett boiled down the lessons he’s learned as a collegiate athlete to three different concepts.
“Self-discipline for sure, respect toward your elders and others, and trust,” Bennett said.
Busch said Bennett’s true strength lies in his ability to pin the opponent at the long end of the field.
“What he’s done the most for us that’s been really, really good is the pins inside the 20. We don’t accept touchbacks on our team, we just don’t,” Busch said. “Whether it’s at the 19 yardline or the 2 yardline, we can’t let them have the short field. He’s done a very good job of pinning the opponents.”
Bennett said the key has been to follow Busch’s favorite phrase, “Let’s go!”
Bennett will finish the majority of requirements for his degree in sociology this December, with just one research class to complete in the spring to graduate. He intends to train and shoot for the next level of football with the eventual hope of becoming a police officer or firefighter.
“You just have to listen and keep your mouth shut,” Bennett said. “Do that and pay attention to detail. It’s a long road, but it’s fun.”
As for the remainder of the 2012 season, Bennett is all in with the rest of his Aggie teammates as far as doing whatever he can to help win a WAC Championship and play in USU’s second-straight bowl game.
“Last year was great. We had a good team,” Bennett said. “This year, though, I feel like we’re doing better.”
And as for Bennett, he is doing his part as he currently ranks first all-time in school history with a 43.6 yards per kick average on 94 punts during his career.
Megan Allen writes for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.