With the season drawing near, we are counting down the 20 most important players on the 2009 Baylor football team. Each member of the SicEmSports staff turned in a ballot of their top players in the program, basing their decisions on pure talent and how well said talent gets translated to the football field. Opinions differed and some great players were left just outside the cut, but at the end of the day, these were the 20 Bears at the top.
16. Derek Epperson
2006 first-team All-District
2006 5A Academic All-State Elite selection
2007 honorable mention freshman Alll-American - Sporting News
2007 All-Big 12 freshman - Sporting News
2008 second-team All-Big 12 - Waco Tribune-Herald, Kansas City Star
2008 third-team selection - Phile Steele
2008 honorable mention All-Big 12 - Big 12 coaches, Associated Press
2009 Ray Guy watch list
2008 Stats: 44.27 yard average on 49 punts (2,169 yards), 16 50+ yard punts, 14 inside the 20 yard line
Highest Ranking: 8
Lowest Ranking: Unranked
Bio: Known as much for his brain as his boot in high school, Derek Epperson earned a spot on the 5A academic all-state elite list to go along with his All-District honors as a punter by finishing 16th in his class and averaging 43 yards per punt as a senior.
Pegged as a two star recruit by Rivals, Epperson chose Baylor over Rice in part for the chance to be the next Daniel Sepulveda - to date the only player to win the Ray Guy award twice - no easy act to follow as Epperson would soon find out.
As a freshman in 2007, Epperson struggled to find his rhythm, averaging 39.1 yards per punt, ranking him 86th nationally on the year. As a sophomore in 2008, however, Epperson put in a performance that more than did his predecessor due justice by finishing with a 44.27 yard average on 49 punts, including 16 50-plus punts and 14 pinned inside the 20. On the year, Epperson average was good enough for 9th nationally and 2nd in the conference.
A unanimous preseason All-Big 12 first-team selection, Epperson heads into the season on the initial watch list for the 2009 Ray Guy Trophy, making him the sole representative from the Big 12 for an award he was named a semifinalist for in 2008.
Blair: Measuring in at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Derek Epperson is a punter in a linebacker's body and is far and away the best punter in the Big 12 right now. Field position is an oft-looked over aspect of football, but any coach worth his whistle will tell you that it's one of the most important in the game. In that regard, Epperson is a weapon in his own right.
Fletcher: This season Baylor will have one of the top punters in the country. Stop me if you've heard this story before. Epperson is a weapon with his ability to change field position.
Todd: With Epperson you're talking about the best punter in the Big 12. He can boom it and he can pin it inside the 20-yard line whenever needed. A huge weapon. I've always said give me a punter and a defense and I'll take my chances.
20. Tim Atchison
18. Antareis Bryan
17. Antonio Jones
16. Derek Epperson