Re: Punting Average
There are three punters in the top five averages of all time (Dales, Prefontaine & Duval) and they are present day kickers.
There are a couple of key differences between punters today and punters of yesterday.
- Directional kicking
- Punt Singles
Up until 1975 there was no blocking permitted on punt returns. The job of the punter was to kick the ball as far as they could. Even when blocking was introduced, directional kicking was unheard of. In fact, Bernie Ruoff once got chewed out by a Winnipeg coach for attempting some directional kicks in a game. Ruoff was told to kick the ball deep and it was up to the coverage team to make the tackle.
The first punter to be asked to try directional kicking may have been Bob Cameron in 1982. Cameron was leading the league with an average close to 50 yards per kick. Ray Jauch asked Cameron to start directional kicking to limit the returns. Cameron knew that it would kill his average but he also knew that doing what the coach wanted was a good path to job security. By the end of the season Cameron was fifth in the CFL with a 43.3 average.
In the days of old, you took points whenever you could. A punt single was a valuable point and the opposition often did its best to get the ball out of the end zone. After a single, the opposition got the ball at the 25 yard line.
Today, teams do their best to avoid punt singles as touchdowns and field goals are much more important. Punters aim for the coffin corner and they are disappointed when the ball bounces into the end zone for a point.
The key to a long punt is a strong wind at your back, a kick that the returner cannot field, a great bounce and a lot of luck. A couple of the longest punts ever pre-date modern records. There are suggestions that Joe Krol had a 110 yard punt in a playoff game in the 1940s. In 1931, Norm McLeod of the Winnipegs punted the ball from his own goal line and the ball didn't stop until it crossed the dead ball line at the other end of the field (120+ yard punt)... By the way, Chris Milo tied the CFL record for longest punt last season.
Average Gain per Rush
Leo Lewis played in an era when three or four backs lined up behind the quarterback. Those backs were divided into halfbacks and fullbacks. The halfbacks usually ran outside the tackles which put them into open space more often. That is why players like Leo Lewis and Willie Fleming have higher rushing averages than other backs. The fullback was responsible for a lot of the touch yards up the middle. The fullbacks who played in the same backfield as Lewis (such as Charlie Shepard and Roger Hagberg) had lower average gains.
When you look at the big picture, these stats are not so weird after all.