Georgia State punter and placekicker Brandon Wright is becoming a game-changer for the Panthers on special teams.
Wright ranks third in the nation in average yards per punt with 48.6 yards, helping Georgia State sit third nationally in net punting, entering Saturday’s game at Appalachian State (2:30 p.m.; ESPN-plus, online only). However, the punter’s football career started later than others as Wright did not begin kicking for a football team until his sophomore year at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate.
“When I got to high school, my high school didn’t have a soccer team,” Wright explained. “I just played basketball, and the coach was familiar with me. He knew I played soccer before, so he was like, “just come out and kick and see what happens.”
In his three years punting for the Panthers, Wright increased his punting average of 39.8 yards in 2016 to his current average of 48.6 yards. Eighteen of Wright’s punts have gone inside the 20-yard line and 21 of his 41 punts travelled 50 or more yards this season.
Wright’s workload goes beyond punting as he is one of just four kickers in FBS who handles all three phases of kicking -- punting, placekicking, and kickoffs. Along with a heavy workload, the Ray Guy Award watch list member also continues to pen his name in Georgia State record books. In the game against Louisiana-Lafayette, Wright’s 68-yard punt, despite a high snap, became the fourth-longest punt in Georgia State history.
“Coming into the season, I just wanted to be better than last season,” Wright said. “Just working really hard at it and staying consistent as possible. It’s progressed into what it is now.”
His progression over three seasons places him as the current career punting average leader with a 43.57-yard average, tracking to break the current record of 42.84 yards held by former Panther and New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz. Wright and Lutz continue a friendship that developed while at Georgia State in 2015, when Wright was a freshman and Lutz a senior. Lutz is still Georgia State’s career leader in points, field goals, and point afters.
With one more season, Wright is on track to become the career leader in field goals, having already surpassed Lutz in punts with 129 and punting yards with 5,621. Even though Wright continues to work to break Georgia State records, he also continues to talk with Lutz and attend kicking camps to better himself for the next level.
“We talk a lot,” Wright said. “I saw him a couple of times during the offseason when he came up here to kick. … I knew up here (Georgia State) Lutz was the only guy, and he was a senior. So, after that, I could possibly just go ahead and be on scholarship and be the next kicker for the next four years up here.”
As Georgia State sits at 2-8 (1-5), Wright and the Panthers hope to focus on continuing to break program records. The Panthers have two games left –– Saturday’s game against Appalachian State and the team’s final game against rival Georgia Southern –– and the team hopes to use the last two games of the season to shatter records and gain experience.
“There’s nothing that says we can’t beat App State and there’s nothing that says we can’t beat Georgia Southern again,” Wright said. “There’s nothing that says we can’t have the most rushing yards or whatever in a single game. We’re just trying to be as perfect as possible and set records from here on out.”