Who Steps Up In Placekicking Department?
The only reliable part of Penn State’s placekicking in 2021 was Jordan Stout booming kickoff after kickoff into the end zone for touchbacks. With Stout having moved on to the NFL, it seems like the kickoff specialist job is set to go to Sander Sahaydak, who by all accounts, seems to have the most booming leg and will hopefully continue to deny opposing kickoff returners a chance to take one to the house. Field goals and extra points will be the ones to watch for, as a now-healthy Jake Pinegar is presumed to be handling those duties, but he will have to overcome issues with inconsistency. With the exception of 2019, where Jake nailed 11 of his 12 field goal attempts, he was a very shaky 16-for-24 in 2018, and 9-for-13 in 2020. Don’t rule out Sahaydak at the very least, handling longer range (45-plus yards) field goals, similar to how Pinegar and Stout split kicking duties in 2019 and 2020.
Who Steps Up In The Punting Department?
Another huge void left behind by Stout’s departure is in the punting game. You saw Gabe Nwosu and Barney Amor strut their stuff in the Blue-White Game, but keep an eye out on true freshman Alex Bacchetta, who earned a scholarship for a reason. Bacchetta was after all, rated the No. 1 punter in the nation by Kohl’s Kicking. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if he were to win the job and become a four-year starter, much like Blake Gillikin did. Regardless who ultimately wins the job, it is imperative that it is someone who is able to display that combination of booming leg and accuracy, one that can reverse the field and/or pin opposing teams deep in their own territory.
Who Steps Up In The Return Department?
Jahan Dotson did the lion’s share of the punt returning last season, so who fills that void remains to be seen. Look for Parker Washington and Marquis Wilson to be in the mix, as they both did a little bit of punt returning last season, perhaps you can also keep an eye out for true freshman Kaden Saunders, as his sheer athleticism would warrant getting him a look on special teams.
Devyn Ford can be sharpie’d in as one of PSU’s kickoff returners, but who joins him will be interesting to see. Look for another fellow running back such as Caziah Holmes or Nick Singleton to get a chance beside Ford, or perhaps Saunders or some other receiver. Kickoff returning feels like the hardest thing to predict, given how it seems the coaching staff is hell-bent on playing the stats with regards to returns and simply just fair-catching every kickoff that falls within their own 10-yard line and starting possession at their own 25.