Sports

Gamecock Punter Gets The Love

Kai Kroger on watch list for award he should have won last year …

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University of South Carolina punter Kai Kroger has made the preseason watch list for the 2023 Ray Guy Award – the same honor which snubbed him a year ago.

Kroger, 21, of Lake Forest, Illinois, was a Ray Guy semifinalist in 2022 – and probably should have won the honor. Instead, he inexplicably failed to make the final cut of three finalists despite winning weekly honors from the group six times during the season.

Head coach Shane Beamer was not happy.

“Do the people that vote on this actually WATCH football?” he tweeted. “What a joke.”

Beamer wasn’t the only one who felt Kroger got the shaft.

Senior writer Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic referred to the diss as “the biggest snub of award season so far.”

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Kroger got the last laugh, though, earning first-team All-America honors from both ESPN and The Athletic.

Not only is Kroger the best punter in America, the 6-foot-4, 212-pound senior is one of its most dangerous trick play specialists. Through his three-year career at South Carolina, Kroger is a perfect 6-for-6 passing – throwing for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he connected on all four of his attempted passes for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns – including a 23-yard scoring strike to long snapper Hunter Rogers in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.

Kroger logged 2,675 yards on 56 boots in 2022 – good for a 46.1 yards-per-punt average. Eighteen of those punts traveled more than 50 yards – including a career-best 79-yard punt against Georgia State. Precisely half of his kicks were downed inside the 20-yard line of South Carolina’s opponents.

Named after famed Oakland Raiders’ punter Ray Guy – who died last November at the age of 72 – the award’s committee will meet late in the season to select the ten semifinalists – which will be announced on November 10. A national body of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) sports information directors, media representatives and previous Ray Guy Award winners will then vote for the top three finalists – which will be announced on November 22. Once the finalists are named, a final round of balloting will determine the nation’s top punter. The name of the winner will be announced live during the Home Depot College Football Awards show – which will air on ESPN in December 2023.

Having exceeded expectations in each of his first two seasons in Columbia, S.C., Beamer opens his third campaign as Gamecocks’ head coach against No. 21 North Carolina on September 2, 2023 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST.

Oddsmakers have installed the Gamecocks as 2.5-point underdogs, with ESPN’s matchup predictor giving them a 37.6 percent chance of victory.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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