LOGAN — Utah State football player Tyler Bennett has been named a candidate for the 2011 Ray Guy Award, which identifies the nation’s top collegiate punter, announced Monday by the Augusta Sports Council.

Bennett is one of two punters from the Western Athletic Conference, joined by Bobby Cowan of Idaho, on the 54-candidate list. Additionally, Bennett is one of two punters from Utah schools, along with BYU’s Riley Stephenson.

“It’s a tremendous honor. I feel very blessed for this opportunity, it doesn’t come around very often,” Bennett said. “I’m thankful and I’ve worked hard for this. It is nice to be recognized for all the hard work. I’m thankful for my teammates, mostly the gunners, who get down the field and cover the punts to help us with a great net punting average.

"This honor is a great accomplishment, but you can always strive for better and I hope to be among the Top 10 semifinalists.”

A junior in his first season with USU after transferring from Phoenix Community College, Bennett is a native of Phoenix, Ariz. (North Canyon HS). Bennett is second in the WAC with a 46.1 yards-per-punt average (behind Cowan’s 47.5 ypp), and Bennett ranks seventh in the FBS in punting.

A total of 10 of Bennett’s punts have been 50-plus yards, including a long of 67. Bennett has 14 punts inside the opposition’s 20-yard line, tied for 21st in the country. Nearly half of Bennett’s punts (14-of-34, .412) have been pinned inside the 20.

“This is a good achievement and honor for Tyler. We’re just over the halfway mark on the season so what he does from here on out will dictate exactly how far he moves along with this award process,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “It’s a great honor for him, especially coming in as a junior college transfer, and he has done a very nice job kicking the ball for us so far, so we need to keep that up. I’m proud of him for this honor.”

As a unit, Utah State leads the WAC and ranks seventh in the FBS in net punting at 40.9 ypp.

The Ray Guy Award list will be narrowed to ten semifinalists to be announced on November 11. Following the semifinalist announcement, a national body of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) sports information directors, coaches, media representatives, and previous Ray Guy Award winners will vote for the top three finalists, who will be identified on November 21. The voting body will then cast ballots to select the winner.

The presentation of the Ray Guy Award will be featured on The Home Depot College Football Awards live on Thursday, December 8 on ESPN. The show, hosted by ESPN’s Chris Fowler, Lee Corson, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard, will feature live presentations of nine player awards, along with the recipients of Disney’s Spirit Award, The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award, the NCFAA (National College Football Awards Association) Contributions to College Football Award, and student-athletes selected to the Walter Camp All-America Team.

Fans can visit the show’s dedicated web site at www.espncollegefootballawards.com to find the latest college football awards news, including show details, previous winners, fan voting, a photo gallery and video highlights.

Utah State is coming off its second and final bye of the season and returns to WAC play on Saturday when it plays at Hawaii at 10 p.m. (MT).

The Aggies return home to the friendly confines of Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium to host San Jose State the following Saturday at 1 p.m.

Fans can follow the Aggie football program at on Twitter (@USUfootball) or on the USU football blog. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter (@USUAthletics) or on Facebook.

Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.