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College Men Back of the Year - Dylan Audsley

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College Men Back of the Year - Dylan Audsley

Audsley looks for space, which he usually finds. Michael Geib photo.

A couple of weeks ago Goff Rugby Report named our College Player of the Year.

That was Kyle Sumsion, the captain and flanker for BYU. It meant we needed to name a Back of the Year, and this week that player gets his due.

Dylan Audsley, center for St. Mary’s, is the best back in the country. He doesn’t have blazing speed, although he seems to outrun a lot of players, and he is frighteningly enormous, and yet he can carry tacklers and break through the line. What he is, is a player who makes plays.

“In terms of bang for your buck and upside, he’s remarkable,” said St. Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien, who toyed with putting Audsley at flyhalf because of his kicking ability and ability to see the field, but decided, in the end, he’s a center and should remain so. “It did take him a while to settle into the position. But his strength to weight ratio is fantastic, and he can go through three gears in five meters.”

O’Brien said Audsley had continued to improve his communication skills - lining up with Mike McCarthy and Kingsley McGowan has helped - and while he is a ferocious tackler, he can sometimes get out of position. 

But he is a superb attacking player in the open field and in traffic, and is as good a kicker as their is in the game.

Audsley can take a hit and dish it out. Michael Geib photos.
Dylan Audsley, Michael Geib photo
Dylan Audsley, Michael Geib photo

“Against Cal we ran a switch which they knew was coming, they hit him before the gain line and he takes that entire group ten meters more and then the ball comes out through the hands and we score,” said the coach. “That try only happens because Dylan Audsley is so strong. But he can also be a distributor and put folks away.”

Audsley was born in England of a British father and American mother. He moved with his family to Arizona, where he played rugby for the Scottsdale program, and was an excellent punter and kicker in football, and considered pursuing football in college. In the end, he chose rugby, and St. Mary’s, where he has shown his kicking, running, and contact skills.

Breakaway tries? Clutch plays? Winning kicks? They are all part of his resume.

“Training with the guys at St. Mary’s is a really good level to be at and getting the phenomenal coaching has been great,” Audsley said of his experience at St. Mary’s. “Learning to do well at my studies as well has been important. St. Mary’s is a hard school to be at - I struggled at first with my grades and now I am on the up, so it’s good.”

On the field, as school got more under control, so did the rugby. In 2013-14 he was mostly a distributor, recognizing that All American Garrett Brewer at flyhalf and All American Kingsley McGowan at center were the teammates he wanted to set free. 

“I think this year things kind of opened up for me, and I wanted to be more confident in myself and take the ball forward more,” he told Goff Rugby Report. “Defensively I need to work on staying low. It’s funny last year I made a lot more tackles, I don’t know maybe teams were running at me. On attack I need to work on my vision, especially with my boot.”

His boot seems to be pretty good, at least from the tee. His style is a short little snap at the ball, but it works, and he routinely hurt opponents with kicks that extended leads, or kept games close.

“Kicking is something I’ve been doing for a while,” he said. “In American football it helped, kicking field goals, because it really strengthened my leg. I don’t really practice a lot anymore because it takes me off-balance in my body.”

Well it works out just fine anyway, as evidenced by the DIA final, where Audsley scored a try and converted three, and added three penalty goals. His kicking was the difference. What’s interesting about it also is that his approach is very quick and his follow-through very short. It’s not the Jonny Wilkinson crouch that so many young English-trained rugby players used for years. Audsley has another hero to emulate.

“It’s more about getting a pop on the ball,” Audsley explained. “I watch a lot of [Wales star] Leigh Halfpenny kicking. I like his style. He smacks it but he shorts it. So I kind of adopted his style a little bit.”

Certainly he can hit it hard and accurately, even when it was a clutch situation.

“That game was intense. The whole game was intense. But I think I like the high-pressure kicks more - you don’t have to think so much.”

Audsley is also a tough customer. He played the second day of the College 7s Championships with a broken hand. But that’s not why we’ve picked him as Back of the Year. It’s because he is good at pretty much everything, and was brilliant at key moments like the DIA semis, DIA final, and games against BYU and Cal.

Dylan Audsley is our Aircraft Charter Solutions Men’s College Back of the Year.