BOULDER, Colorado — It's not often that a punter is considered the crown jewel of a recruiting class in college football.
The Colorado Buffaloes changed that Wednesday with the signing of Alex Kinney from Rocky Mountain High, about an hour's drive from his new campus.
What boosts his stock to the top of the class along with several junior college transfers and a bevy of running backs is the expectations of an immediate impact for Kinney, who replaces four-year starter Darragh O'Neill.
"We lost our punter and our kicker last year, so we felt like we definitely had to have one," coach Mike MacIntyre said. "And one of the best ones in the country, according to everybody, is just right down the road."
Punting and kicking guru Chris Sailer certainly agrees. He said Colorado potentially picked up the best punter in the nation.
"Alex is a special athlete," Sailer said in his online review. "Look for him to have an outstanding career at Colorado in the Pac-12. A bright future awaits."
And he won't have to wait, either.
While many members of the Buffs' 19-member recruiting class are headed for a redshirt season, much is expected of Kinney when Colorado opens at Hawaii.
"We plan on him having an opportunity to punt and maybe even kick in our very first game, there's no doubt about it," MacIntyre said.
MacIntyre also is counting on quick contributions from running back and Boise State transfer Aaron Baltazar and junior college transfers Jordan Carrell from American River College, Blake Robbins from Georgia Military Academy and Afolabi Laguda from Butler Community College.
Freshmen who figure to push for playing time in 2014 include Patrick Carr, a 5-8, 195-pound running back from the Houston area, and two big offensive linemen who stayed in-state: Tim Lynott Jr. and Dillon Middlemiss, who enrolled early.
Top 25 Class: No.
Best in class: RB Patrick Carr
Best of the rest: P Alex Kinney, RB Aaron Baltazar, OL Tim Lynott Jr., QB Steven Montez, DL Blake Robbins, DL Jordan Carrell, DB Afolabi Laguda.
Late addition: Carr.
Two that got away: DB-WR Jeremy Kelly to San Jose State and LB Jay Hockaday to Vanderbilt.
Freelancer Monica Costello contributed.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton