First, the obligatory Ace Ventura YouTube clip, because the SB Nation Constitution states that all special teams previews must feature at least one such clip.
Anywho, as you're all aware by now, two key starters on special teams, kicker/punter/kickoff specialist/unofficial Cruzan Mango Rum spokesperson Anthony Fera, and punt returner Justin Brown have departed to bitter Big 12 rivals Texas and Oklahoma, respectively. Much like the running back and wide receiver positions, there's some inexperienced but talented blood eager to prove themselves and now they will have the chance to do so after being unexpectedly thrust into starting roles.
|More 2012 Position Previews…|
|Running Backs (Cari) - 8.13.12|
|Linebackers (Mike) - 8.14.12|
|Defensive Tackles (Jared) - 8.15.12|
|Special Teams (Tim) - 8.16.12|
|Offensive Line (bscaff) - 8.17.12|
|Tight Ends (Devon) - 8.20.12|
|Defensive Ends (Jared) - 8.21.12|
|Wide Receivers (Dan) - 8.22.12|
|Quarterbacks (Jeff) - 8.23.12|
|Defensive Backs (Cari) - 8.24.12|
Your Starting Kickoff Specialist/Field Goal Kicker: Sam Ficken
As a true freshman last year, Ficken's leg was called upon twice for field goal attempts (of which he connected on half of them) and a few other times for kickoffs. His lone make last year was from 43 yards out, while his failed attempt was actually blocked. All of the action for Ficken occurred during the non-conference slate because once Anthony Fera was released from JoePa's doghouse, that was the last he saw of the field. Fera was 14 for 17 on his field goal attempts in 2011, never missing from inside 40 yards (7 for 7 on 20-29 yards, 4 for 4 on 30-39 yards), so needless to say, Ficken has an awfully golden kicking toe he has to follow up on. Reports from training camp thus far seem to indicate that Ficken is up to the tall task of replicating Fera' success, but we will know for sure in less than a month.
Backup(s): Matt Marcincin
Not much is known about the redshirt freshman except that he is currently Ficken's backup. If he turns out to have a strong enough leg though, you may see him trotted out as PSU's kickoff specialist.
Your Starting Punter: Alex Butterworth
Alex first came on to the scene as a freshman in November 2010, punting in PSU's final few games while Fera was recovering from an emergency appendectomy. He also saw action early last season as well during Fera's suspension, punting eight times for a 38.5 yard average with a long of 54, and three of them landing inside the opponent's 20 yard line. Given Fera's 42 yard average, it is imperative that Alex shows drastic improvement with regards to distance in 2012.
Backup(s): Matt Marcincin, Renny Parthemore
According to the official roster, Marcincin is listed as both a kicker and punter. Thus, I'm including him on this list as well. Parthemore was just added to the roster the other week, after deciding to end a three year baseball career with the Boston Red Sox organization, which he joined straight out of high school, thus giving him freshman eligibility starting this season. Parthemore is a Pennsylvania product who played football at Cedar Cliff high school, which meant he was coached by the Internet-famed Jim Cantafio. [cue the DO YOU HAVE PRIDE, RENNY? jokes]
As a true frosh last year, Amos returned eight kickoffs for 163 yards (longest return 29 yards). Whether Bill O'Brien will allow him to return kicks this season remains to be seen, given the dire depth situation with the secondary. Alex Kenney however, is a name that you all should start getting used to hearing/reading. As a senior in high school, Kenney was highly regarded for his versatility and game-breaking speed, leading State College Area High School to the 2009 PIAA State Title Game, where he scored State High's only points on a 97-yard kickoff return. Look for Kenney to be the top choice to fill Justin Brown's old spot as well as teaming up with Amos (or someone else) on the kickoff return squad.
I base this on absolutely nothing, except for the fact that these guys are all pretty damned fast and could potentially be paired up with Kenney on the kickoff return team if Amos is a no-go.
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