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Looking Ahead: Special Teams

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Punters and kickers, y'all! What can you say about the Penn State kicking game in 2012 that hasn't already been said about the New York Jets? Can it improve?

Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

A way-too-early position preview series; included are scholarship and verbally committed Class of 2013 players, while run-on players have been left out of the previews.

Warm Bodies: Sam Ficken (Jun.), Alex Butterworth (Sen.)

Outlook: Well, it can't get much worse, right? After starting the season on a terrible run, Ficken was serviceable throughout the remainder of the year. The much ballyhooed kicker ended 2012 with 14 field goals on 21 attempts (six of those misses coming across two games against Virginia and Illinois), and added 39 extra points on 41 attempts, good for the team lead with 81 points scored.

Though he ended the year relatively strong, Ficken is going to have to find a level of consistency required of collegiate kickers. It's tough to say whether Bill O'Brien chose to start going for fourth downs before or after Ficken's struggles, but not being able to rely on your kicker, even from the 20- or 25-yard line, is a difficult pill to swallow. Run-ons Kevin DiSanto and newcomer Chris Gulla add depth to the position.

Butterworth is entering his senior season, taking over for the departed Anthony Fera in 2012. And like Ficken, Butterworth struggled to find any consistency. Penn State punted 51 times (compared to 63 forced punts), and averaged 37.4 yards per punt, and number that is reduced to 34.5 yards net punting average, good for 105th in the country. The difference between Penn State and conference leading Illinois? Less than five yards. A little stronger leg and a little better punt coverage...

Projected 2013 Depth Chart: K - Ficken; P - Butterworth

Names to Watch: With a very limited number of scholarships to go around over the next few years, it would be very surprising if a scholarship was offered to a kicker. The team will simply have to make due with what they have, and hope for the best.

QB - RB/FB - WR - TE - OL - DT - DE - LB - DB - ST


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