Two years ago, Vanderbilt punter Richard Kent topped a dubious list.
He led all of Division I in 2010 with 84 punts, a school record, an unflattering stat for the offense during a 2-10 campaign.
On Wednesday, the senior was placed on a more inviting and selective list when he was named to the preseason watch-list for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the nation’s top punter. Kent is just one of 25 candidates and is the first Vanderbilt player to make the initial cut since the award’s inception in 2000.
The former walk-on from Marietta, Ga., ranks fourth all-time in school history with an average of 42.1 yards per punt. In 2011, he averaged 42.5 yards, booted 16 more than 50 yards and landed 23 inside the 20-yard line. His net punt average — after returns — was 41.2 yards, which was the best Vanderbilt mark since former All-American Bill Marinangel in 1996.
He is one of five SEC players to make the list, joining Dylan Breeding (Arkansas), Steven Clark (Auburn), Brad Wing (LSU) and Tyler Campbell (Ole Miss).
Last year’s winner, Ryan Allen of Louisiana Tech, also is on the list.
Allen booted 83 punts in 2011, including a career-long of 72 yards. He averaged a school-record 46.1 yards and led the nation with 39 punts inside the 20-yard line. The Bulldogs were 8-5 but fell to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Only Baylor’s Daniel Sepulveda has won the award multiple times (2004 and 2006).
The list will be whittled down to 10 semifinalists in November, followed by the announcement of three finalists. The winner will be named on Dec. 6 on ESPN.
This is the second time in three days a Vanderbilt player has been named to a preseason watch-list for a national award. On Monday, senior running back Zac Stacy was named as one of 65 candidates for the Maxwell Award, given to the country’s best offensive player.