As the names were released on Wednesday for the Lou Groza Award Watch List, one name stood out among all others. Tulane‘s Cairo Santos was easily the highlight of the list as he will be returning to defend his trophy that he won last season. No matter what the case, it’s tough to go back-to-back in any any sport, be that winning an award or a championship.
The rest of the names on the list will challenge Santos for the coveted trophy given to the nation’s best placekicker. Of those, the ACC lands four on this year’s watch list as possible candidates to knock Santos off the mountain.
The Duke Blue Devils‘ Ross Martin, Virginia Tech Hokies‘ Cody Journell, Boston College Eagles‘ Nate Freese and the Clemson Tigers‘ Chandler Catanzaro were all named on the list representing the Atlantic Coast Conference, and all with good reason.
Martin, just a freshman last year during Duke’s above-average season, was phenomenal. Hitting 20 of his 23 FG attempts, including a long of 52 yards, the youngster was a vital part of that Blue Devils run in 2012. He also added 29 touchbacks on 77 kickoff tries.
For Virginia Tech, Journell was 20-25 on FG attempts for the year with a long of 42 yards. Now a senior on this Hokies squad looking to improve on a lackluster 2012 performance, Journell could see the spotlight on him on a few occasions this year with the game on his shoulders. Well, or leg I should say.
After a sub-par performance in 2011, Boston College’s Nate Freese was right back on point in 2012. Nailing through 18 of his 20 FG tries with a long of 45 yards, Freese was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise not-so-impressive Eagles squad. The senior can also claim a good touchback-to-kickoff attempt ratio with 17/52.
Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, also a senior, has a lot of pressure on his leg as well this year. With the Tigers expected by many to compete for a national championship, Catanzaro’s leg could come in to play in a few important games during this 2013 stretch to keep those aspirations alive. Sending through 18 of his 19 FG tries last season certainly has to have coach Dabo Swinney more than comfortable with his kicker’s talents, should a pressure situation actually arise.
Jack is the ACC College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS