Training camp battle: DeBauche vs. Ryan

Focus goes from place-kicker position to punter this year

Last year in training camp, Green Bay Packers fans watched closely as Mason Crosby beat out Dave Rayner for the place-kicking job. This year, Crosby, who is coming off a record performance as a rookie, will watch a punting battle between incumbent Jon Ryan and undrafted rookie free agent Ken DeBauche.

Ryan improved in his second year with the Packers, finishing ninth in the NFL in gross average (44.4 yards) and tied for 11th in net average (37.6). While it appears that he will have the inside track on the punting duties, keep an eye on DeBauche, a native of the Green Bay suburb of Suamico.

DeBauche punted four seasons for the University of Wisconsin and averaged 42.5 yards per punt in his career with outstanding hang time. He was a second-team all-Big Ten performer last season and a first-teamer in 2005, when he averaged a school-record 44.8 yards per punt.

Like Ryan, DeBauche is no stranger to punting in cold weather. In big-game situations, he came through for the Badgers by setting a school record for punting average (44.7 yards) in a bowl game against Tennessee last year. He held the previous record for best average in a bowl game with his 44.3 norm against Georgia in the 2005 Outback Bowl.

DeBauche finished his Wisconsin career with 231 punts for 9,815 yards.

Ryan has a leg up on DeBauche but is no shoe-in for the punting job. If DeBauche performs better in practice and in preseason games, like Crosby, the Packers probably won't hesitate to go with a rookie, much like they did with Crosby.

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