Martin, Monday Anchor Blue Devils' Special Teams
By Eric Russell
The Lou Groza and Ray Guy award watch lists were released Wednesday and it came as no surprise the Duke Blue Devils had a representative on each. The Blue Devils' sophomore tandem of Ross Martin and Will Monday may give them the best kicking game in the nation.
Martin, a semifinalist of the Groza award last season, is coming off a great freshman year. Monday, the punter, was no slouch either. He gained All-ACC honors.
Both players downplayed the notice.
"It's a great honor obviously, but It's just a preseason watch list," Martin said. "Obviously this year I'm trying to actually win the award ... so it's motivation."
Playing at often-overshadowed positions, Martin and Monday could be two of the most vital parts of Duke's team. If their freshman campaigns are any indicator then the two are in line for another big season.
Martin was given the task of turning around the Blue Devils' kicking game that had struggled the previous year and he came through in a big way. In his first season, Martin connected on 87 percent of his kicks and set a school record for points in a season (106). The good news for head coach David Cutcliffe and Duke? Martin said he has more confidence heading into his sophomore campaign.
"Last year there were the first-year jitters," Martin said. "This year having my holder Will Monday returning and getting a lot of work with the new snapper I feel much more confident going into next year versus last year."
As for Monday, last season he averaged 44.6 yards per punt, good enough to rank him 13th in the nation and first in the ACC. Of course, there was also the 79-yard punt in the Belk Bowl. Much like Martin, Monday isn't worried any of last season's accolades or being named to the watch list. He, Martin and the rest of the Duke team have one goal in mind.
"We want to have a chance to compete for an ACC title," Monday said of the team's goals. "We also want to win a bowl game. Making it to a bowl game last year was good but we want a win."
Martin echoed his sentiments. A bowl appearance for the Blue Devils would mark the first time in the schools history the team has made back-to-back trips to a bowl game. The two also spoke of the chance to beat some of the top competition in the division. Virginia Tech and North Carolina were two of the hurdles Monday mentioned the team will have to get over to capture an ACC crown.
"We haven't beaten Virginia Tech since (Coach Cutcliffe) has been here and that's one of his big goals," Monday said. "Then, like always, UNC. We did it last year. We walked away with a win and got the Victory Bell. We want to keep the Victory Bell here for a long time. They've had it for long enough, and it's our turn to keep it."
The kicking game often gets overlooked, but with two standouts like Martin and Monday, Duke's could get some attention this season.