BOONE, N.C. — The Football Writers Association of America has become the second organization to honor Appalachian State punter Clayton Howell as a Freshman All-American.
Howell, a redshirt freshman from High Point, N.C., received similar recognition from The Athletic. He ranked eighth nationally and first among FBS freshmen with a net punting average of 41.9 yards during the 2018 season.
Howell capped his award-winning season in impressive fashion, launching a 60-yard punt that teammate AJ Beach downed at the 1-yard line in the closing minutes of a 45-13 victory in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
Overall, Howell averaged 43.6 yards per punt with just one touchback as a redshirt freshman, and opponents were limited to a combined 61 return yards on his 47 punts. Only 15 of his punts were returned, as there were 12 attempts forcing a team to start a drive inside its 20-yard line and 20 attempts that were fair caught.
From the snaps by senior Elias McMurry to downfield coverage from the likes of Beach, Austin Exford, Steven Jones, Desmond Franklin and Akeem Davis-Gaither, it was a team effort.
Howell’s 10 punts of 50-plus yards also included a season-long kick of 62 yards that was delivered from his own end zone and downed at the Arkansas State 29. He had punts of 56 and 54 yards from his own end zone to go along with a 53-yard punt that was downed at the Penn State 4, a 53-yard punt that was downed at the Louisiana 1 and a 49-yard punt that was downed at the Coastal Carolina 2.
Following Penn State’s 29-yard return on Howell’s first punt of the season, his final 46 attempts produced a 42.1 net average with only 32 total return yards.
Of the 32 freshmen honored by the FWAA, nine were players from a Group of Five conference, and there were two from the Sun Belt Conference. Howell became the first Mountaineer to be named a Freshman All-American since cornerback Clifton Duck earned that recognition in 2016.