LARAMIE -- Ralph Fawaz wasn't exactly stunned to see the Wyoming coaching staff add another punter into the fold last June.

In fact, the freshman expected it.

"They say competition brings out the best in you, so I'm ready," the walk on from Cache, Oklahoma said during the offseason.

Clayton Stewart, a transfer from Texas State, pushed Fawaz throughout fall camp. Craig Bohl said then that the competition was close. One day, Fawaz was making all the kicks. Stewart the next.

Ultimately, Wyoming's eighth-year head coach gave Fawaz the nod.

"I think the competition elevated me because Clayton is also a great punter," he said. "He's phenomenal. I'm sure he can start wherever he wanted. But watching Clayton and learning a few things from him -- he's a very knowledgeable punter -- he's helped me out and it's been great."

He responded by being named the Mountain West Freshman of the Week after a season-opening victory over Montana State that featured six punts that averaged 45.7 yards per boot. Five of those six kicks landed inside the Bobcats' 20-yard line, including one that was downed at the one. Two of those also carried for 50-plus yards.

 

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Three weeks ago at San Jose State, Fawaz earned that same honor after averaging 48.8 yards per kick and pinning the Spartans inside their own 20 once. He has kicks of 51, 50 and 55 in the loss.

"The confidence, I'll tell you what, it's not really in me. It's in my shield and my punt team," Fawaz said. "I trust those guys so much. For me, right now, I'm taking it as a learning experience, just learning and processing everything for next year."

With All-American-caliber punters in the Mountain West like Ryan Stonehouse at Colorado State, Matt Araiza at San Diego State and Will Hart at San Jose State, among others, Fawaz calls the punters in this league the best in the nation.

Araiza is the top-ranked punter in the nation, followed by Stonehouse.

"Even like, statistically, if we look at it there are some great guys," Fawaz said. "I do think what a lot of those special teams with those players have on me is age. A lot of those guys are fifth-and sixth-year guys. There's a lot to learn and take from it.

"They're setting records for me and (UW placekicker) John (Hoyland) to come here and break them."

Fawaz is currently ranked 45th in the nation in punting, averaging 42.9 yards per punt. Only Araiza, Stonehouse, Hart and Boise State's Joel Velazquez, have been better in 2021.

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