KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee fans probably didn’t hope one of the most consistent players this season would come on special teams.
Still, it’s worth looking at the contributions of Volunteers punter Trevor Daniel. The senior from Dickson, Tenn., has given the Vols an edge in field position and taken pressure off the Tennessee defense this season. Not surprisingly, Saturday’s 24-10 win over Southern Mississippi was no exception.
“Trevor Daniel was able to flip the field position for us,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Monday. “He had six punts for 50 yards or more.”
Daniel punted eight times for an average of 49.3 yards Saturday, including two punts that were downed inside the Southern Miss 10-yard line. A 60-yard punt in the fourth quarter was his longest of the night. Consequently, Southern Miss only had three drives start beyond its own 35-yard line. This allowed the Vols defense to play more aggressively at times, without fear of giving up a quick touchdown.
“It was big to be able to flip the field,” Daniel said. “To make it hard on their offense and better for our defense. I’m just trying to do my job like I always do.”
Daniel ranks No. 5 in the country in average yards per punt at 47.3. He has attempted 55 punts for a total of 2,603 yards.
“I think I’m doing pretty good and pretty consistent,” Daniel said. “My hang time hasn’t been as good as it should have been, but I’m trying to work on that.”
Daniel has been one of the best punters in the country since he took over the starting job as a sophomore in 2015. He was named to the Ray Guy Award watch list in the preseason and has a legitimate chance to capture the honor after the season.
Daniel will face a challenge this weekend, though. The Vols travel to Missouri, where the playing conditions are expected to be cool (48 degrees forecasted) and windy.
“When it’s cold, the ball doesn’t fly too well, but when it’s windy, it just messes everything up,” Daniel said.
The Vols can use all the help they can get from Daniel in terms of field position against the Tigers, who have won three consecutive games and scored 165 points during that span.