We continue our Remembering the Cal Football Seniors series by taking a look at one of the greatest ever to play his position at Cal: Punter Bryan Anger. (Previous installments: Mychal Kendricks, Marvin Jones, Mitchell Schwartz, and Trevor Guyton.
The Jacksonville Jaguars raised some eyebrows on the second day of the NFL Draft when they chose the Cal punter in the third round (70th player taken overall). With that selection, Anger became the highest drafted punter since the Chicago Bears took Todd Sauerbrun out of West Virginia in the 1995 NFL Draft. Sauerbrun lasted 13 years in the NFL; will Anger have a career of similar length?
Anger's Cal career was about as a good as could be. He was the second player in Cal history (center Alex Mack was the first) to earn first-team all-conference honors for three consecutive seasons and, not surprisingly, also won the J. Scott Duncan Award as Cal's Most Valuable Special Teams Player for the same three seasons. Anger was the Bears' starting punter for all 51 games possible in his Cal career and averaged 43.5 yards per punt, ranking second all time behind Scott Tabor's 44.0 yard average in 1986-87. Anger holds Cal's single-season record for punt average, posting an impressive 45.6 yards per punt in 2010. In fact, Anger has three of the top six statistical seasons ever for a Cal punter (44.2 in 2011 is fifth all time and 43.1 in 2008 is sixth all time).
True to his nickname of "Anger Smash," Anger had an incredible 72 punts of more than 50 yards during his Cal career. In fact, Anger has four of the 12 longest punts in school history, including famously booting a 76-yarder vs. Stanford in the 2008 Big Game for his career best. But Anger was just as much about touch as he was about power: he had a knack for pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line, doing it 90 times in his Cal career.
Today, CGB remembers the Jacksonville Jaguars' new punter.
TwistNHook: I cannot remember a time before Bryan Anger was the Cal punter. I presume there were previous punters from a misty before before time. But I sure as hell can't confirm it!
OhioBear: Twist must have a mancrush on Anger that affects his memory because we've had some pretty good punters during the Jeff Tedford era at Cal. Anger's immediate predecessor, Andrew Larson, was pretty good. So was David Lonie before him. And Tyler Frederickson (two-way kicker FTW!) was pretty good before him. Of course, during the Tom Holmoe era, we had Nick Harris, who may have been Cal's best ever punter before Anger. And for us older Blues, we remember Ryan Longwell (another two-way kicker!), Chris Noonan, and Robbie Keen (yet another two-way kicker!) being very good punters. (And even older Blues will wax poetic about Scott Tabor's Pac-10 record 89-yard punt back in the day.)
But I digress...
I am amazed as anyone that an NFL franchise used a third-round draft pick on Anger, let alone any punter. And it's not like the Jaguars didn't have any other needs to address. But while the wisdom of using a third-round pick in the NFL Draft on Anger is certainly debatable, one thing that is NOT debatable is Anger's status as one of the greatest --- if not THE greatest --- California Golden Bear punter of all time.
Kodiak: Bryan Anger excited us all as a young punter with an awesome leg that reminded some of former Cal great Nick Harris. Solid hang-time with just a few hiccups regarding location and consistency. But when he was on, he was a game-changer and could completely reverse the field position battle.
And that's what is so frustrating about the last two years of his career. You have a guy who has one of the best legs in college football...and you marginalize his strengths by going to a rugby-style kick. Mind-boggling.
Normally, I like hearing reports of Cal guys excelling at the Senior Bowl. This year, I heard about Anger just killing it and felt more than a little frustrated about what might have been.
Considering that our current punting game is reliant on...wait for it...a back-up tight end, I think we're going to miss Anger as much as we'll miss Jones, Kendricks, Holt, and Schwartz.
Hydro Tech: I will probably remember Bryan Anger for his booming punts which had us all gazing up high into the blinding sun for almost 5 seconds at a time. But, unfortunately, I'll also probably remember Bryan Anger for all the times he had to rugby punt and the results weren't that great. I don't know if this is really something to blame on Bryan. He always struck me more of a traditional punter guy rather than a rugby punter. And I'm pretty sure he preferred to just sit back in a traditional punt formation and boot that ball to the moon, but the Cal special teams coach seemed to have other ideas. So, unfortunately, I feel like Bryan Anger was a bit of a wasted talent. I don't think he was utilized in a way which suited him best. Just my two cents. Of course, I'm merely a chef, not a football coach, so what do I know? But it was always more fun to watch Anger when he was just crushing the ball off of a regular punt kick rather than rolling out rugby style.
Overall, I think Bryan Anger is pretty much right up there with some of Cal's best punters.
Avinash: I'm a little less harsh on the rugby punts, because the directional kicking is not about Anger but the resulting punt returns and pinning the returner toward the sideline. And Cal's punt coverage has been as bad as Anger has been good.
2008: 23 punts returned, 12.35 yards per punt return (103rd)
2009: 22 punts returned, 9.86 yards per punt return (73rd)
2010: 20 punts returned, 12.95 yards per punt return (108th; Cliff Harris anyone?)
2011: 17 punts returned, 7 yards per punt return (47th). Take away one meaningless punt against Presbyterian away, and it drops to under 5 yards per punt return, or 21st overall)
Meanwhile, Anger's overall average dropped to 43.43, which is only a yard drop from last year (and punting at AT&T and Candlestick is no easy task). Add in the punt return nets and it's clear the punt game was superior this year compared to last year. The added field position lessened the burden on our defense, and they were free to wreck. So Genyk's strategy seemed to bear out.
Anger, one special teams coach told me this weekend, is one of the best directional punters he's ever seen. "I never get the chance to just kick down the middle of the field,'' he told me. "At Cal, we always wanted to pin the guy in the corner or the sideline. Field position today is so big in football. It's a big deal nobody really focuses on.''
Berkelium97: One of my fondest memories of Bryan Anger also happens to be my earliest memory of him. Heading into the open spring practice in 2008 I was looking forward to seeing Nate and Kevin's battle for the starting [quarterback] role, Best's new role as the #1 back, and the early stages of Gregory's 3-4 defense. Our new punter was near the bottom of my list of things to watch at that practice. But then, for the first time, I saw Bryan Anger unleash a punt.
This redshirt freshman became the highlight of the day. Every time he kicked he drew a chorus of "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" from the crowd. The height and hangtime on his punts was unbelievable, especially for a RS freshman. It was pretty clear he had an NFL career ahead of him as soon as he stepped on the field.
Avinash: Bryan Anger punts were among the best things about Cal football the past four years. That says about as much about Anger as it does about the rest of the team.
ragnarok: Ah, that takes me back to my freshman year at Cal (2000), when our team was so bad that our pocket schedules put out by Cal Media featured our punter (Nick Harris). Not to knock Nick Harris, but when your punter is your star player...
Avinash: It wasn't quite that bad. I looked forward to other parts of the team. But generally when you're commenting positively on the punter, things have probably taken a turn for the derp.
Kodiak: Does the fact that Bryan Anger was drafted in the third round, on the strength of his ability to rugby punt no less (!?!?!), change your opinion of the past couple of years?
Genyk...crazy like a fox?
atomsareenough: No, I shall continue to think the rugby punts were stupid, and the only thing that has changed is that I now question the Jags for wanting to use it.
LeonPowe: Seriously if they want to use rugby punts they should draft someone from Jack Clark's teams instead. Anger is made for traditional punts and BOOMing them.
Berkelium97: Jacksonville fans are going to be very disappointed if they use him as a rugby punt specialist. Did any of his highlights over the past two years come off rugby punts? They should focus on the tried and true technique: Anger SMASH.
Ohio Bear: And one more time just for the heck of it...GIVE RICH EISEN SOME PUNTING XO. SOME PUNTING XO!