AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tennessee redshirt senior punter Trevor Daniel has been named as one of 78 punters on the final candidate list for the 2017 Ray Guy Award, as announced by the Augusta Sports Council on Tuesday.
The Ray Guy Award identifies the nation’s top collegiate punter at the Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN every year in December. Among the 78 candidates are two of the 2016 finalists, Michael Dickson, Texas, and Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah. Candidates on our 2017 list were nominated for the award by their school’s Sports Information Departments (SIDs).
Through eight games this season, Daniel has 47 punts for 2,209 yards and a 47.0-yard average, which ranks second in the SEC and fourth in the nation. Daniel’s 19 punts inside opponents’ 20 and 21 punts of 50 or more yards lead the SEC. His 19 punts inside the 20 also rank fourth among Power Five schools. Daniel was named Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week on Sept. 5 after punting six times for a 47.0-yard average against Georgia Tech with five landing inside the 20.
Daniel was named to the Ray Guy Award Watch List in July. The Dickson, Tennessee, native was a candidate for the Ray Guy Award in both 2015 and 2016.
The candidate list will be narrowed down to 10 semifinalists to be announced on Thursday, Nov. 16. Following the announcement, a national voting body of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) SIDs, media representatives and previous Ray Guy Award winners will vote for the three finalists who will be identified on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The voting body will then cast ballots to select the winner. The 2017 Ray Guy Award winner will be announced live on ESPN during The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thursday, Dec. 7.
By Zach Stipe
Like many kids Trevor Daniel dreamed of playing football for the University of Tennessee someday. Growing up in Dickson, Tenn. – just outside of Nashville – Daniel would watch games every Saturday with his grandfather.
“Seeing them on TV and the Power T’s on their helmets, and the orange … it was something special,” Daniel said, remembering where his love for Tennessee began.
On Saturday against Southern Mississippi, kids will dream of being Daniel when he trots out onto Shields-Watkins Field, wearing that very helmet with the orange “Power T,” and booms another punt that flips field position – something he has done as well as any player in the country over the last three years as the Vols’ redshirt senior punter.
“I can’t say enough about him and his ability to change field position,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. “He’s one of those individuals who works his craft every single day. He has turned into a weapon for us because he helps us control field position.”
Through eight games in 2017, Daniel ranks fourth in the nation with a 47.0 average, while leading the SEC in punts inside the 20-yard line (19) and punts 50 yards or more (21). He has eight punts that have been fielded inside the 10-yard line, as well.
Daniel’s career average of 45.6 yards per punt ranks No. 2 among all active punters in college football (any division) and the mark is also the best in Tennessee football history – an impressive feat for a school that counted four alumni as starting NFL punters in 2016.
Daniel didn’t begin punting until his junior year at Dickson County High School and only received scholarship offers from Lenoir Rhyne University and Eastern Kentucky University, so he jumped at the chance to come to Knoxville when he was offered a spot as a preferred walk-on in 2013.
Still, Daniel didn’t see the field for two years as he learned behind future NFL punters Michael Palardy and Matt Darr.
He seized his opportunity as a redshirt sophomore in 2015 by grabbing starting job and averaging 45.7 yards per punt, which ranked second in the SEC and eighth in the country.
“I never thought I was going to play here,” Daniel said. “I thought I was going to be a scout guy or something like that. Getting help from Darr and Palardy and they’re in the NFL, it was an honor to be able to work with them and be able to play with them while they were here.”
Daniel was awarded a scholarship in 2015, but that hasn’t caused him to relax. He has left an impression on his coaches and teammates with his hard work and determination. He arrived in Knoxville buried on the depth chart with no scholarship and only a hope that he may someday get on the field towards the end of his career. He will leave Rocky Top as one of the best punters in school history with a great opportunity to play in the NFL.
“What many people don’t see is the time,” said redshirt sophomore Riley Lovingood, Daniel’s long snapper the last two years. “Every day he works. He’s always working on his craft. He’s always thinking about what little thing can he do better. It’s really impressive. It’s inspiring to all of us to work even harder because he wants it that bad.
“He doesn’t want one kick to be out of place or too short or too long. He wants every kick to be perfect.”
While no punter is ever perfect every game, Daniel has come close over the last two years.
In the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, he trapped Nebraska back on its own 2-yard line twice.
He pinned Georgia back on its own 6-yard line with 3:43 left in the game in 2016, setting the Vols up for their first lead of the game following a fumble recovery in the end zone two plays later in a memorable 34-31 victory.
In the 2017 season-opener, Daniel tallied five punts inside the 20 and had a 70-yarder en route to collecting Ray Guy National Punter of the Week honors following a win over Georgia Tech.
A few weeks later he booted a career-best 72-yarder – the longest punt by a Vol since 1990 – against South Carolina. He has an incredible 52.3 yard per punt average against the Gamecocks.
Against No. 1 Alabama, he pinned the Crimson Tide back at its own 2-yard line in the first quarter.
The highlights go on and on like the seconds ticking off the clock when one of his punts hangs in the air for what seems like forever.
It’s easy to see why Daniel is bona fide contender for the Ray Guy Award and will contend for All-America honors.
He also has a great opportunity to join his old buddies Palardy and Darr in the NFL.
For now, the recreation and sports management major is soaking up every moment he can at the school he grew up rooting for with his grandfather.
“It’s still crazy looking back,” Daniel said. “I was just a little kid who loved watching Tennessee football and now I get to be a part of it.
“Sometimes I have to stop and think I’m seriously a Tennessee football player and I’m doing really well. I really can’t put it into words. It’s just awesome. I’m just trying to make the most of every opportunity I get here. It’s kind of sad that it’s almost over almost. I’m going to miss it a lot.”