In a season filled with so much disappointment and what-could-have-been talk, there’s always been one positive that you can take away from each and every game for Syracuse football: Sterling Hofrichter.
Week in and week out, the three-time captain has been the Orange’s best player whenever he takes the field. Because of Syracuse’s lackluster offensive performances, he’s had had ample opportunity to show off his craft and it seems like he delivers on every single one of those opportunities and people are starting to take notice.
Just a few months after being named the Ray Guy National Punter of the Week for his outstanding performance against Clemson, Hofrichter has been named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter.
He’s the first finalist in program history and will head down to the College Football Awards in Atlanta on December 12th. He’ll try to become Syracuse’s second consecutive national award winner on special teams after Andre Szmyt took home the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best placekicker a season ago.
When Hofrichter gets there, he’ll be opposed by a pair of other extremely talented punters in Kentucky’s Max Duffy and Houston’s Dane Roy. How does Sterling stack up? Let’s find out.
The 26-year-old senior from Perth, Australia might have the biggest leg out of any of the finalists. Duffy leads the country in punting average at 48.9 yards per kick while Hofrichter checks in at No. 27 at 43.7 yards per punt. That doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story though. Hofrichter has the edge over Duffy in punts that pinned the opponent inside their own 20 yard-line (27 vs 22) and they’re dead even in punts that traveled 50+ yards (20 apiece). The real advantage for Hofrichter, however, comes when you consider how much he’s limited the return game with his kicks. Of Hofrichter’s 64 points this season, 32 (50%) of them have been fair caught, completely eliminating any hopes for a return. In total, only 15.6% of his punts have been returned. Compare that to Duffy’s 8 fair catches forced on 42 (19%) attempts and I think you can forgive the five extra yards Duffy is averaging.
Another former Australian Rule football player, Roy is a 27-year-old senior (and former ice cream salesman) from Bunyip, Australia. He towers over Hofrichter (5-foot-10) at 6-foot-7 but that size advantage doesn’t mean he necessarily has a leg up on his competition. Roy is averaging 46.9 yards per punt this year (7th in the country) so, much like Duffy, he has the advantage over Hofrichter in that category. He also has a slight edge over Sterling in both 50+ yard punts (22 vs 20) and punts inside the 20-yard-line (30 vs 27). Once again though, Hofrichter has a massive advantage in fair catches forced with his 32 on 64 attempts (50%) compared to Roy’s 8 on 54 attempts (15%). This one is definitely more of a toss-up than Duffy vs Hofrichter because of Roy’s superior stats in almost every category, but if you ask me, that fair catch number is wildly impressive. The whole point of being a good punter is pinning the opponent deep and limiting the return game and Hofrichter does that better than any other punter in the country.