Irrespective of struggles on offense and defense last season, the Rice football punting game via the leg of Jack Fox consistently produced impactful plays.
Rice football didn’t have many statistical boons to celebrate last season. Though the Owls issues on both sides of the ball the leg of their all-CUSA punter, Jack Fox, was not one of them. As a junior in 2017 Fox booted 56 punts. His 44.3 average was a top-20 mark in the nation and one of the brightest spots for the Owls last year.
Cutcliffe: "People forget the punt is actually an offensive play. You average more on a punt than any other play."
— Joe L. Hughes II (@JoeLHughesII) July 18, 2018
Calling Fox an offensive weapon might be a stretch, but it’s true that he did more to flip the field than the starting 11 did most of the time. Just once in 2017 did he tallied fewer than 100 total punting yards, a loss to Southern Miss. Other than that Fox topped 200 yards with his leg six times and went over 300 yards on three separate occasions.
Fox blasted the eighth-most punts in the nation as a sophomore in 2016. His overall totals fell last season, but he’s got more than enough leg to kick it long whenever Rice calls upon him.
From his sophomore to his junior season Fox saw his effectiveness improve. He averaged 40.7 yards per punt as a sophomore before upping that average by more than 3.5 yards last season. Another bump up in distance would put him within range of last years’ leading punter, Michael Dickson of Texas. Dickson holds the distinction of being the first punter selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Fox was named to the Ray Guy watch list. He called it “an honor” to be listed alongside some of the best punters in the nation. Rather than be content there, Fox wants to get better. He hopes to boost his average to 45 yards per punt in 2018, a mark which would put him in the conversation to take home the award this fall.
If Rice truly intends to pick up a few more wins in 2018 out-punting their opponents won’t suffice. But that doesn’t mean an effective punter won’t play a meaningful role in the Owls future successes. Rice doesn’t have a roster overflowing with talent. Fox is one of the most talented players they have. While he’s here, the Owls had best make use of him.