Cason Beatty is in his second year as our starting punter, after taking over for one of the best punters in the nation and in school history, in Shaun Powell. In his senior season, Shaun Powell averaged 47.0 yards per punt with a net of 41.3. That Powell averaged such great numbers were due not only due to the fact that he could kick it far, but also because he could achieve superior hangtime on his punts. Here are a couple of quick excerpts on the importance of hangtime:
The minimum hang time for a 40-yard punt should be 4.1 seconds. Hang time refers to the amount of time the ball is in the air once it leaves the punter's foot to the returner's catch.
When evaluating the punting team, the most important statistic is net punt. This is the distance from your line of scrimmage to the point at which the opponent takes possession of the football. The distance the ball goes does not dictate field position; rather, hangtime is the key to increased net punting distance. The longer the ball is in the air, the farther the coverage players have to go to get to the punt returner. Your punter must understand the importance of hangtime and not measure his success according to gross punting yards.
Now, let's go over FSU's punting stats over the last few years.
Year (punter) - Avg/Net
2012 (Beatty) - 36.9/34.1
2011 (Powell) - 47.0/41.3
2010 (Powell) - 44.3/39.0
2009 (Powell) - 41.6/36.2
2008 (Powell/Gano) - 40.2/36.4
2007 (Gano/Moody) - 40.9/35.9
Now, how about this year? Beatty, in his second year, has an average of 40.2 ypp and a 34.0 net. What does this mean? Well, while Beatty has improved on his average from last year, his net has (albeit inconsequentially so) actually DECREASED. His net punting average this year is currently the 13th lowest in the NCAA and would be (last year's net was 15th owrst in the NCAA) the worst at FSU in at least over a decade.
Last year Beatty got some leeway for being a freshman. What is the excuse this year? Some say he has improved, but after watching his punts this year, I'm yet to clock one at 4 seconds. It is difficult to have a good net with a hangtime not only CONSISTENTLY under 4 seconds, but literally NEVER over 4 seconds. We have great athletes but it is just difficult to get down the field that quickly to cover punts.
Is the fact that we don't have a dedicated special teams coach hurting Beatty and his development? Is Beatty just physically incapable of handling the punting duties at a level that we would expect, to the point where we should be looking to recruit another or have a player walk on?
The good news is that due to our offense being so prolific we have the 3rd fewest punts attempted (21) in the NCAA which is only one more than the least attempted (20). We haven't needed Beatty and we probably won't in at least the next 3 games (Wake, Syracuse, Idaho). But, if and when we ever play a game that is close, we may need him. Even in a game that is not particularly close, a blocked, shanked, or returned punt can turn a game around.
Obviously, our offense is so good that we are rarely forced to punt and AT LEAST past midfield we're better off going for it on 4th down anyways (it is just too difficult to keep this offense from getting 10 yards in four plays). The 'Noles are third in the country in 3rd down conversions at 56% conversions and have converted their only 4th down attempt of the season.
But what do y'all think? Is this a serious problem that could hurt us down the line? How should we go about playing with/around this issue? If we take care of business and get some luck from Stanford/LSU, this kinda stuff could matter in the MNC game (I'm glad to even just be able to say that), especially considering Alabama is 14th in the country in punt returns and Oregon is 9th in that category.