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ESPN's 'Position U' Rankings Put Cal in Top Five at One Position

Golden Bears are among the best schools at producing one unit in this ranking going back to 1998

ESPN undertook the task of naming the colleges that have produced the most talent at each position, the so-called “Position U” at 10 positions. And believe it or not, Cal was ranked in the top five at one of the positions, albeit not one of the glamour positions.

ESPN considered players who attended college since 1998, since that was the start of the BCS era, or what we might call modern-age college football.

Here is how ESPN described its ranking method:

What counts as success? We narrowed it down to a few key categories. Schools got points for all-conference and All-America selections, along with points for being drafted (weighted by round) and for success at the next level. For that last category, we looked at only the first four years of a player's career (beyond that, the NFL should get credit for development) using Pro Football Reference's weighted career value.

USC is the most frequently mentioned Pac-12 school, with the Trojans being ranked in the top five at quarterback (No. 2), wide receiver (No. 1), and linebacker (No. 5).

But Cal does make the top five in one position: punting.

Here are the rankings for Punter U:

1. Texas A&M

2. Utah

3. Tennessee

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4. Cal

5. Georgia Tech

So which punters did Cal produce to earn this ranking?

There were really just two, but they were (are) awfully good.

Cal punter Nick Harris was a first-team all-conference selection in 1999 and 2000 and he was consensus first-team All-America selection in 2000. Harris was then taken in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL draft by the Denver Bronos, and was a punter in the NFL for 13 seasons, for the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars. His final pro season was 2013. In 2007, he signed a five-year contract extension with the Lions that was worth $8.55 million – an average of $1.7 million per year.

The other top-flight punter from Cal is Bryan Anger, who was a three-time first-team all-conference punter in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and was taken in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is still active in the NFL, having already played 10 pro seasons with the Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys. He led the league in punting average in 2014 (47.5), and he had his best season in 2021, when he averaged 48.5 yards per boot, made the Pro Bowl for the first time and was named second-team All-Pro. He is expected to be the Cowboys punter in 2022. (Anger is also the holder on place-kicks.) He recently signed a three-year contract with the Cowboys that pays him an average of $3 million per year.

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Cover photo of Bryan Anger is by Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports

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