Nebraska's Brett Maher ended the 2011 season as the consensus selection for first-team All-Big Ten kicker and punter.
While Nebraska fans certainly weren't asking, "Alex, who?" Maher did a tremendous job of filling the void left by All-American do-it-all specialist Alex Henery.
Not surprisingly, Maher appears on preseason watch lists for both the Lou Groza Award (nation's top kicker) and the Ray Guy Award (nation's top punter) that came out Wednesday. Maher is the lone Big Ten punter on the Guy Award watch list, while seven Big Ten kickers made the Groza Award list.
Here's the full Big Ten contingent on the Groza watch list:
Drew Basil, Ohio State, junior
Dan Conroy, Michigan State, senior
Mitch Ewald, Indiana, junior
Anthony Fera, Penn State, junior
Brendan Gibbons, Michigan, junior
Brett Maher, Nebraska, senior
Mike Meyer, Iowa, junior
Fera, Maher and Meyer all were Groza Award semifinalists in 2011, while Conroy was a semifinalist in 2010. The Big Ten once again looks strong at place-kicker, and the best story of the group is Gibbons, who made just 1 of 5 attempts as a freshman before connecting on 13 of 17 attempts last season, including the game-winner from 37 yards out in overtime at the Sugar Bowl (the "brunette girls" boot).
It's a bit surprising not to see more Big Ten punters on the Guy watch list. Fera, who like Maher handles both kicking and punting duties, averaged 42 yards per punt in 2011. Purdue's Cody Webster and Michigan State's Mike Sadler also would have made sense for the watch list. Fortunately, the Guy Award will reveal an expanded list of candidates Oct. 26 and announce its 10 semifinalists on Nov. 9. Three finalists are revealed Nov. 19, and the winner will be announced Dec. 6 during the Home Depot College Football Awards.
The Groza Award announces 20 semifinalists Nov. 5 and three finalists Nov. 19. The winner will be announced Dec. 6
The Big Ten hasn't had a Groza Award winner since Ohio State's Mike Nugent in 2004. Ohio State's B.J. Sander is the last Big Ten player to win the Guy Award (2003).