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Three Reasons to be Optimistic about Penn State’s Special Teams in 2022

This group may actually benefit from new personnel.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Rutgers at Penn State Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New special teams coordinator Stacy Collins

Penn State football lost a critical piece from their staff in the offseason when former coordinator Joe Lorig left for the same position at Oregon. The hire of Collins, who most recently was special teams coordinator at Boise State as well as co-defensive coordinator at Utah State, may allow the Nittany Lions’ third unit to become game-changers on a consistent basis. Collins’ Boise State group blocked three punts and one field goal in 2021, ranking top 10 in the country, and his kickoff coverage unit was second in the Mountain West. Scoring-wise, Collins has also coached several All-American kickers. Hopefully, he can guide the Nittany Lion punters and kickers to gridiron stability.

A separate punter, field goal kicker, and kickoff man

Speaking of gridiron stability, while Jordan Stout provided that in 2021, his field goal kicking, kickoff duties, and punting left the senior stretched thin and ended up hurting Penn State in the long run. There is already a heated battle at punter between six-year transfer Barney Amor and house-in-cleats Gabriel Nwosu, with Amor seemingly a little more consistent at the moment. Kickoff and field goal duties seem to be either the responsibility of fifth-year senior Jake Pinegar, or redshirt freshman Sander Sahaydak. Sahaydak has a bigger leg than the one-time starter, but his accuracy on field goals remains to be seen. It would be unsurprising if the second-year Nittany Lion ended up as the primary kickoff man in 2022.

A healthy and hopefully more consistent Jake Pinegar

Speaking of the greybeard of the kickers, Pinegar has had difficulty staying healthy, and there are certainly questions about his reliability, especially from long range. However, a new coordinator who has a track record for coaching kickers to standout performances gives me some optimism for the new season. Now that Jake has had all of 2021 to recover from injury and all he needs to focus on are short to medium-length field goals, he may be a pleasant surprise for Penn Staters this fall.