May 24, 2024

College football’s 15 best place kickers of 2024

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College football's 20 best place kickers of 2024

North Carolina kicker Noah Burnette (98) nails a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of the Holiday Bowl against Oregon Wednesday December 28, 2022 at Petco Park. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Kickers are expected to deliver in the clutch for their teams, and they have a slim margin for error. Pressure moments provide opportunities for them to be heroes. Crowd noise levels and weather conditions come with the territory.

Regardless of rain, wind, snow and glaring sunlight, kickers are expected to deliver when their number is called. It’s all about leg strength, accuracy and having ice water in the veins. The majority of kickers start out as walk-ons, and have to prove their worth before being awarded a scholarship. However, there’s no denying how much they’re a valued asset in a team’s overall success.

These 15 kickers are looking to build off last season’s success, and rack up more points this fall.

15. Aidan Birr, Georgia Tech: The former three-star prospect finished ninth in the FBS in field goal percentage last season. Birr nailed 17 of his 19 field goal attempts, and was perfect inside the 40-yard line. He only missed two of his nine attempts beyond the 40-yard line. Birr made three field goals in the victory at Wake Forest, including a 48-yarder, which were both season-highs. The Texas native also nailed three field goals against Georgia, including a 45-yarder. Birr recorded a 42-yard field goal against South Carolina State. The six-foot-one, 198-pounder had a 46-yarder against Boston College.

14. Jai Patel, Rutgers: The New Jersey native set a school single-season record for field goal accuracy last year. Patel nailed 13 of his 14 field goal attempts inside the 50-yard line. He connected on all three of his field goals in the victory over Temple, including a 51-yarder. Patel also made three field goals against Ohio State. The five-foot-nine, 180-pounder nailed two field goals, including a 47-yarder in the win over Michigan State. Patel posted a 50-yard field goal against Maryland. Not to mention he only missed one PAT, and capped off 2o23 with third-team, All-Big Ten honors.

13. Trey Smack, Florida: The former two-star prospect only missed four of his 21 field goal attempts, and was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last season. Smack didn’t miss a PAT the entire year, and he made the SEC Academic Honor Roll. The Maryland native nailed a jaw-dropping, five field goals, including a 54-yarder in the victory over Charlotte. Smack made four of his five field goal attempts, including a season-high, 54-yarder in the win over South Carolina. Not to mention Smack nailed three of his four field goal attempts against Arkansas, including a 47-yarder.

12. Mason Shipley, Texas State: The Texas native made all of his 15 field goal attempts, including four from 40 yards and beyond last season. Not only did Shipley tie for first in the FBS in field goal percentage, but he also set a school record for field goals in a single season. His 103 points, were the second-most in program history. Not to mention he capped off his campaign with first-team, All-Sun Belt honors. Shipley nailed three field goals, including a season-high, 47-yarder in the victory over Louisiana Monroe. He also connected on three field goals at Louisiana.

11. Drew Stevens, Iowa: The former two-star prospect is a two-time, Lou Groza Award semifinalist. Stevens has made 34 field goals over the past two years, including 18 last season. He also led the Hawkeyes in scoring, and only missed one PAT in 2023. Stevens even capped off his campaign, with third-team, All-Big Ten honors. The South Carolina native nailed four field goals, including a season-high, 53-yarder in the victory over Michigan State. Stevens had a 48-yard field goal at Wisconsin. His 53-yard field goal as time expired against Northwestern, won the game.

10. Tyler Loop, Arizona: The Texas native was clutch for the Wildcats, and connected on 19 of his 24 field goal attempts last season. Loop was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, who finished 23rd in the FBS in scoring, and earned second-team, All-Pac-12 honors for his heroics. Not to mention Loop didn’t miss a PAT the entire year. He nailed two field goals, including a career-high, 52-yarder, and the game-winner at Colorado. Loop made three field goals apiece in wins over Washington State and Oklahoma. He posted a 51-yarder at Oregon State, and has nailed 49 career field goals.

9. Peyton Woodring, Georgia: The former three-star prospect put together a solid campaign as a true freshman last season, and posted 21 field goals. Woodring finished sixth in the FBS in scoring. He tied for 18th nationally in field goals per game. Not to mention he finished 25th in the country in field goal percentage, and didn’t miss a PAT the entire season. Woodring generated three field goals apiece in victories over Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri. His 48-yard field goal against the Tigers was a season-high. Woodring only missed of field goal over the final 11 games.

8. John Love, Virginia Tech: The South Carolina native made 22 of his 24 field goal attempts last season, but only received Honorable Mention All-ACC recognition. Love delivered when his number was called, and tied for sixth nationally in field goal percentage. He tied for 13th in the FBS in field goals per game, and 23rd in scoring. Not to mention he didn’t miss a PAT all year. Love nailed a season-high, five field goals in the victory over Syracuse. The former two-star prospect posted a season-high, 46-yard field goal in the win at Boston College. Love’s leg is a deadly weapon.

7. Ryan Fitzgerald, Florida State: The former two-star prospect only missed two of his 21 field goal attempts last season. Fitzgerald was clutch for the ACC Champs, and a Lou Groza Award Semifinalist. He finished seventh in the FBS in field goal percentage. Not to mention he led the ACC with 58 PAT. Fitzgerald also capped off his campaign with third-team, All-ACC honors. The Georgia native made a 48-yard field goal in victories over Clemson and Syracuse. Fitzgerald posted a 45-yard field goal in the ACC Championship Game, and has made 41 kicks over past two seasons.

6. Andy Borregales, Miami: The hometown kid put together a monster season for the Hurricanes in 2023, and finished with first-team, All-ACC honors for his heroics. Borregales made 22 of his 26 field goal attempts. He finished 13th in the FBS in scoring. Not to mention he ranked 23rd nationally in field goal percentage. Borregales nailed three field goals apiece in victories over Miami (Ohio), and Virginia. The former three-star prospect made a 51-yard field goal against Florida State and Louisville. Borregales even posted a 50-yard field goal in the win over Texas A&M.

5. Dragan Kesich, Minnesota: The former two-star prospect connected on 23 of his 27 field goal attempts, and didn’t miss at PAT last season. Kesich was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, and capped off his campaign with first-team, All-Big Ten honors. He was also named the Big Ten Kicker of the Year. Not to mention Kesich finished ninth in the FBS in field goals per game. Kesich nailed a 47-yard field goal as time expired that gave Minnesota the opening victory over Nebraska. On top of that, the Wisconsin native scored all of Minnesota’s 12 points in the win at Iowa.

4. Jonah Dalmas, Boise State: The Idaho native is a two-time, Lou Groza Award semifinalist. Dalmas is also a two-time, All-MWC performer. He connected on 24 of his 27 field goal attempts last season. Not to mention Dalmas finished 10th in the FBS in field goal percentage. Dalmas ranked 12th nationally in field goals per game, and 22nd in scoring. The five-foot-eight, 180-pounder even set a program record with 80 career field goals. His 56-yard field goal against UCF was a career-high. Dalmas recorded three field goals at Colorado State, including a 49-yarder.

3. Noah Burnette, North Carolina: Despite not having no stars behind his name out of high school, he put together a memorable campaign in 2023. Burnette only missed one of his 20 field goal attempts, and earned second-team, All-ACC honors. He finished first in the conference, and fourth in the FBS in field goal percentage. Burnette also finished first in the ACC, and 11th nationally in scoring and field goals per game. The North Carolina native didn’t miss a PAT all year. Burnette was money from 40 yards and beyond. His 48-yard field goal at Pittsburgh was a season-high.

2. Bert Auburn, Texas: The Texas native has nailed 50 field goals over the past two seasons. Auburn set a single-season, school record with 143 points, and 29 field goals in 2023. He even finished second nationally in field goals per game, and scoring. Not to mention he’s a two-time, first-team, All-Big 12 performer. Auburn made three field goals, including a 50-yarder in the victory at Iowa State. The six-foot, 183-pounder nailed all five of his field goals, including a season-high, 54-yarder in the win over Texas Tech. Auburn only missed one field goal over the final nine games.

1. Graham Nicholson, Alabama: The Cincinnati native nailed 27 of his 28 field goal attempts at Miami (Ohio) last season. Nicholson became the first-ever MAC player to win the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker. He even earned first-team, AP All-America honors. Nicholson finished third nationally in field goal percentage, and fourth in field goals per game. The six-foot, 185-pounder also ranked 26th in the FBS in scoring. Nicholson set a NCAA record with 25-straight made field goals in a single season. Now Nicholson is going to replace All-American Will Reichard.

Honorable Mention

Jayden Fielding, Ohio State: The Texas native nailed 16 of his 20 field goal attempts last year. Fielding made all 11 of his attempts inside the 40-yard line. He even capped off his campaign with second-team, All-Big Ten honors.

Atticus Sappington, Oregon: The Portland native made 13 of his 14 field goal attempts at Oregon State last season. Sappington even finished fifth nationally in field goal percentage, and will be a weapon for the Ducks this fall.

Michael Hughes, Appalachian State: He has a strong and accurate leg. Hughes made 19 of his 22 field goal attempts in 2023. Hughes even capped off his campaign with second-team, All-Sun Belt honors.

Alex McPherson, Auburn: The former three-star prospect was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, who made all 13 of his field goal attempts last year. McPherson led the SEC, and tied for first in the FBS in field goal percentage.

Michael Hayes, West Virginia: The South Carolina native connected on 17 of his 21 field goal attempts last season. Despite Hayes accuracy and heroics, he only received Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors.

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