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Notebook: Punter enjoying big final season

POSTED: November 27, 2007 5:04 a.m.

ATLANTA — Durant Brooks is the best punter in Georgia Tech history, and it’s not even close.

He’ll soon learn if he’s considered the best punter in the nation.

Brooks enters his final regular-season game with a career average of 45.44 — more than four yards better than the old school record of 41.41 by Rodney Williams.

What’s more, Brooks is finishing his career on a high, coming off his best game and ranking as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award given to the nation’s top punter for the second straight season.

Last year, Brooks finished runner-up to Baylor’s Daniel Sepulveda for the Ray Guy Award.

This year, Brooks has joined Cincinnati’s Kevin Huber and Toledo’s Brett Kern as the finalists. The winner will be announced at a Dec. 6 awards ceremony in Orlando.

Brooks, from Macon, says he’ll feel state pride on Dec. 6 just as he will on Saturday when Georgia Tech plays host to Georgia.

Brooks considers Ray Guy, from Thomson, to be a mentor. He attended Guy’s kicking camp and says he wants to bring the award named for Guy back to the former Oakland Raiders star’s home state.

"It’s awesome," Brooks said. "It was a thrill to be named a finalist again for this award, knowing whose award it was named for. I’m from Georgia and hopefully we can bring it back to Georgia this year."

Brooks has posted numbers that may make him the favorite, and he’s leaving a strong last impression.

Brooks was dominant in Tech’s 27-25 win over North Carolina last week. He averaged 60 yards on four punts, including a 77-yarder that was the longest of his career. He also had punts of 63 and 54 yards as he played a big role in Tech’s advantage in field position.

"I got to stretch out my leg that game," he said.

The 77-yarder put North Carolina deep in its territory when it appeared it would start at drive on Tech’s side of the 50.

Tech had to punt from its 7 early in the second quarter. In those situations, Brooks goes for distance instead of hang time, and his punt sailed far beyond the reach of North Carolina punt returner Brandon Tate, who had to turn his back to Brooks and sprint toward his goal line. The ball bounced to the North Carolina 17.

It was the longest punt in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, the longest ever for a North Carolina opponent and tied for the seventh-longest in Tech history.

Brooks enjoys unleashing long punts. He’s had 11 of at least 60 yards in his two years at Tech after playing two years at Georgia Military College.

But Brooks says he is most proud of his ability to down a ball inside the 20 — especially inside the 5.

On Nov. 11 at Duke, he had punts downed at the 1 and 2. Of his 57 punts this season, 29 have been downed inside the 20.

"I get up the most when I down it inside the 5 and our defense has a chance to stuff them right there," he said.

Men against boys?

Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey is downplaying a possible matchup advantage for his veteran defensive line. Tech starts seniors Adamm Oliver and Darrell Robertson at the ends and juniors Darryl Richard and Vance Walker at the two tackle spots.

Georgia’s offensive line includes three freshmen.

"As of right now they’re only two games from being second-year starters," Gailey said of the Georgia freshmen. "They’ve played a lot of football, and watching the tape from the first of the year to the end of the year, they’ve gotten a lot better."

Added Gailey: "We won’t treat them any different than we treat anybody else. We’ll try to keep them off balance just like we do any offensive line."

Tech can be expected to test Georgia’s line with its normal blitzes. Tech leads the nation with 42 sacks, including 16 in the last three games.

Three Tech players rank among the top 45 in the nation in tackles for losses: Robertson (14th), Walker (37th) and linebacker Gary Guyton (45th). Tech also leads the nation with hits average of 9.32 tackles for loss per game.

The gambles on defense sometimes lead to big plays, but Tech also is strong against the run, ranking ninth in the nation with its average of 89.5 yards allowed.

Tech vs. Top 25

Tech is looking for its first home win against a top 10 team since beating No. 7 Virginia in 1998.

Tech is 1-2 against Top 25 teams this season, beating No. 13 Clemson and losing to No. 21 Boston College and No. 11 Virginia Tech.

Tech’s last win at home against a team ranked as high as No. 6 Georgia was its victory over No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 17, 1962.



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