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August 26, 2011

Preseason top 15: Kickers

We continue our breakdown of the nation's best players at each position with a look at the top 15 kickers.

"Best" doesn't necessarily mean the most pro potential or even the most talent. Instead, it's a mix of what the player has accomplished and how we think the player will do this season. But production does trump potential.

We will look at a position a day until Monday, when we rank all 120 of the nation's quarterbacks. Saturday, we will look at punters. Here are the kicker rankings.

15. ERIK FOLK, WASHINGTON
THE PARTICULARS: 5-11/185, Sr.; Woodland Hills (Calif.) Notre Dame
THE BUZZ: Folk's accuracy dipped a bit last season, in part because Washington used him at longer range (he attempted five field goals of at least 50 yards in 2010 and none in 2009). He finished the season 13-of-20, and his best performance was a 4-for-4 day against USC, including the 32-yard winner as time expired. He was 18-of-21 in 2009. His brother, Nick, kicked at Arizona and in the NFL, and a younger brother, Greg, plays soccer at UCLA.

14. CASEY BARTH, NORTH CAROLINA
THE PARTICULARS: 5-11/185, Sr.; Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard
THE BUZZ: The brother of Tar Heels career field goal leader Connor Barth, Casey is putting together his own standout career. He converted 19-of-22 field-goal attempts last season, with a long of 49 yards. In three seasons, he has converted 50-of-62 field goals and 105 of 106 extra points.

13. DAVE TEGGART, CONNECTICUT
THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/203, Sr.; Northborough (Mass.) Algonquin Regional
THE BUZZ: Teggart had the best game of his career in the most important win in Huskies' history. Against USF last season, Teggart kicked a career-long 50-yarder early in the fourth quarter, then topped that with the most important kick in school history: His 52-yard field goal in the final seconds clinched a 19-16 win and UConn's first BCS berth. He was 25-of-31 overall last season, including 5-of-9 from beyond 40 yards.

12. NATE FREESE, BOSTON COLLEGE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/181, Soph.; Strongville (Ohio) High
THE BUZZ: As a redshirt freshman last season, Freese was nearly automatic from inside 40 yards, hitting 19-of-20 field goals from that range. He was 20-of-23 overall, with his longest a 49-yarder. Freese had his share of 4-of-4 days and 3-of-3 days (two each).

11. ZACH HOCKER, ARKANSAS
THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/180, Soph.; Russellville (Ark.) High
THE BUZZ: Hocker converted 16-of-19 field goals as a true freshman last season, including a 51-yarder against South Carolina, and was 7-of-9 from at least 40 yards. The 51-yarder was the longest by a Hogs kicker since 1988. Hocker also converted all 56 of his extra points.

10. KEVIN GOESSLING, FRESNO STATE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/210, Sr.; Anaheim (Calif.) Servite
THE BUZZ: Fresno State isn't afraid to test Goessling's leg. He is 17-of-23 from at least 40 yards in the past two seasons, including 4-of-5 from beyond 50 yards. That trend started during his freshman season, when Goessling set the school record with a 58-yard field goal.

9. JUSTIN TUCKER, TEXAS
THE PARTICULARS: 6-1/185, Sr.; Austin (Texas) Westlake
THE BUZZ: The versatile Tucker has served as Texas' main kickoff guy ever since he arrived on campus and has delivered 52 touchbacks. He took over as the Longhorns' field-goal kicker last season and made 85.2 percent of his attempts (23-of-27). Tucker was 6-of-9 from at least 40 yards out, with a long of 51. Tucker made all 27 of his extra-point tries. He also is a rugby-style punter who has put 40 of his 92 career attempts inside the opponent's 20.

8. DEREK DIMKE, ILLINOIS
THE PARTICULARS: 6-0/180, Sr.; Rockford (Ill.) Boylan Catholic
THE BUZZ: Dimke has made all 55 of his extra-point attempts and has connected on 85.3 percent of his field goals (29-of-34) over the past two seasons. He set a single-season school record with 24 field goals and ranked sixth nationally with 1.85 field goals per game last season. He was 6-of-8 from 40-49 yards last season and went 2-of-3 from at least 50 yards out, with a long of 52.

7. ROSS KRAUTMAN, SYRACUSE
THE PARTICULARS: 5-7/155, Soph.; Franklin Lakes (N.J.) Ramapo
THE BUZZ: Krautman went 18-of-19 on field-goal attempts last season and set a Big East single-season record with his .947 field-goal percentage. His 18 field goals and .947 field-goal percentage also matched school records set nearly three decades earlier by future NFL kicker Gary Anderson. Krautman made 16 consecutive field-goal attempts at one point to match yet another school record set in 1981 by Anderson.

6. DUSTIN HOPKINS, FLORIDA STATE
THE PARTICULARS: 6-2/190, Jr.; League City (Texas) Clear Lake
THE BUZZ: Hopkins has made 74.5 percent of his field goals (41-of-55) and has gone 93-of-97 on extra points over the past two seasons. He led the ACC last season with 118 career points. He showed off his tremendous range by making a 55-yard field goal as time expired to beat Clemson, the longest walk-off winning kick in ACC history. Hopkins also made a 60-yarder in Florida State's spring game. His tremendous leg also makes him a dangerous weapon in other aspects of special teams, as 47.7 percent of his career kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks.

5. WILL SNYDERWINE, DUKE
THE PARTICULARS: 5-11/190, Sr.; Bethesda (Md.) Landon School
THE BUZZ: This former walk-on has made 86.4 percent of his field goals (38-of-44) and has connected on all 56 of his extra-point attempts in the past two seasons. Snyderwine leads all active FBS kickers in career field goals per game (1.65) and ranks third in field-goal percentage. He set school records last season in field goals (21) and field-goal percentage (.875). He made 18 consecutive attempts at one point last season. He was 8-of-10 from at least 40 yards out last season, with a long of 52.

4. DANNY HRAPMANN, SOUTHERN MISS
THE PARTICULARS: 5-9/164, Sr.; transfer from Southeastern Louisiana, preceded by New Orleans Holy Cross
THE BUZZ: Hrapmann was 26-of-31 last season, his first as the Golden Eagles' full-time kicker. He was 8-of-11 from at least 40 yards, and his longest was a 54-yarder. He made 17 field goals in a row at one point last season. He kicked for just one season at Southeastern Louisiana, a FCS program, and mainly was the Lions' kickoff guy.

3. DAVID RUFFER, NOTRE DAME
THE PARTICULARS: 6-1/193, Sr.; transfer from William & Mary, preceded by Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga Prep
THE BUZZ: The former walk-on made each of his first 18 field-goal attempts before finally missing his last kick of the season in the Sun Bowl. The performance made Ruffer a Lou Groza Award finalist and earned him a scholarship for the 2011 season; he currently is in grad school after graduating with an economics degree. He is 23-of-24 in his career at Notre Dame, including 9-of-9 from at least 40 yards. He did not play football in high school, instead focusing on soccer and golf. His first football action at Notre Dame came in intramurals before he joined the team in October 2008.

2. GRANT RESSEL, MISSOURI
THE PARTICULARS: 6-2/190, Sr.; Jackson (Mo.) High
THE BUZZ: Ressel, who walked-on at Mizzou in 2007, is 43-of-46 in the past two seasons after going 17-of-19 last season; he was 2-of-3 from 40 yards and beyond a season after going 7-of-8 from that distance. Ressel already has a biology degree, and his career goal is to be a dentist.

1. BLAIR WALSH, GEORGIA
THE PARTICULARS: 5-10/183, Sr.; Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Cardinal Gibbons
THE BUZZ: Walsh wears a jersey number (57) befitting a walk-on kicker, but he has been on scholarship throughout his career and heads into the season as the nation's best kicker. He has made 55 career field goals, including 8-of-12 from 50 yards and beyond; his 55 makes are the most for any active kicker. He was 20-of-23 overall last season. He has made all but one of his 139 career PATs and also has had 29 touchbacks on kickoffs the past two seasons.

Rankings and player capsules by Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee.

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