"Can he punt?"
The refrain was a popular one on social media entering the 2015 Florida State football season, one usually levied in criticism of 'Nole punter Cason Beatty. It seemed that any time a non-punter was benched or relegated to the second team, the barb was readily applied. He won't see snaps at running back-- "can he punt?" His future doesn't look bright at linebacker-- "can he punt?" It's even been applied to incoming recruits who seem primed to ride the pine for a while.
He won't play immediately. "Can he punt?"
Translation: whoever he is-- backup quarterback, whoever -- he must be better at kicking the ball than the Seminoles' current option of Beatty. And to be fair, Beatty didn't start well. He averaged 38.3 yards per punt in his freshman season, when the 'Noles finished dead last in punting in the Atlantic Coast Confernce. His 41.1 YPP in his sophomore year of 2013 that saw FSU claim a national title elevated Florida State to just 10th in the ACC.
Yet Jimbo Fisher hung with Beatty. He believed in his investment, the same way he did with Giorgio Newberry. And Lamarcus Brutus.
And just as the aforementioned players built their reputations in 2015, so did Beatty for turning in clutch performances in 2014, when the 'Noles needed him most. For even though FSU finished the regular season undefeated last year, they squeaked out a number of close wins, in large part due to the late-game heroics of not only Jameis Winston and Dalvin Cook, but also the exceptional performance of Beatty.
The 'Noles couldn't get out of their own way in falling behind 21-0 at Louisville before ultimately coming back to win 42-31. Who showed up before Winston, before Cook? Beatty, who kept Florida State breathing by averaging 45.25 YPP. FSU didn't exacty romp Virginia in its next game at home, but Beatty stepped in with a 48.5 YPP average, and the Seminoles won 34-20. And two weeks later, the 'Noles needed every second of regulation to edge Boston College 20-17 in the game's final moment. In a contest largely decided by field position on a rainy Tallahassee day, Beatty averaged 49 YPP.
This year, Beatty's impressive results transitioned from clutch to commonplace. He finished second in the ACC in punting, and 13th nationally, at 44.49 YPP. As a comparison, Roberto Aguayo capped the regular season tied for 24th in the country in FG percentage. And let's not forget that Beatty has held every extra point and field goal that Aguayo has ever attempted at FSU. The Charlotte native worked his way from a suspect punter to a big-game punter to a reliably elite punter on the national stage -- all while facilitating a future NFL kicker's payday.
All of this brings us to where we are now, with regard to Beatty and the future of FSU punting. "Can he punt?" Yes, we know, positively, that Beatty can -- because he has, repeatedly, and in the brightest spotlight. Unfortunately for the 'Noles, he cannot do so any longer, because his eligibility has been exhausted.
On the doorstep for the Seminoles are Ricky Aguayo, Roberto Aguayo's kid brother, and Missouri-native Logan Tyler, each of whom is a 2016 kicker commit for the 'Noles. Most have Aguayo pegged to succeed his older sibling as FSU's next field-goal kicker, which raises the familiar question, with regard to Tyler.
"Can he punt?"
Now, the added wrinkle becomes, can he do so as well as Cason Beatty?