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2023 Spring Position Preview: Special Teams

Points, punts, and snaps are graduated - who is ready to fill the void?

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

BSD’s position-by-position previews continue with a look at the specialists. The Nittany Lions must replace their place kicker, punter, long snapper, kickoff specialist, and punt returner. Good news? There’s a whole lot of competition happening this spring.

Place Kicker

Gone is Jake Pinegar, who connected on 12-of-16 field goals in 2022. That included an impressive 6-of-7 from beyond 40 yards.

Grad transfer Alex Fellows and redshirt sophomore Sander Sahaydak are in a battle to replace him. Sahaydak is known for his powerful leg, but he’s also inexperienced. In limited duty last year, the left-footed Pennsylvania native was 1-of-2 on field goal attempts and added a single extra point.

Meanwhile, Fellows arrives from Columbia with all-Ivy League honors attached to his name. However, in three years as the starter for the Lions, he made just 66 percent of his field goal attempts (36/54). Last year, he was 11-of-16 with a long of 53 yards.


Barney Amor was outstanding in his lone year punting for the Lions as he averaged 44.15 yards per kick and developed into a fan favorite. Penn State has a lot of bodies who will take aim at replacing him.

There are four punters listed on the roster with FAU transfer Riley Thompson being the notable addition. The Australian native averaged 45.4 yards per punt, had 15 punts of more than 50 yards, placed 26 kicks inside the 20-yard line, and had just three touchbacks as part of a season that earned him Freshman All-American honors. Meanwhile, he’s listed as a senior on the roster and has just one year of eligibility remaining.

Both Alex Bacchetta and Gabe Nwosu return with some experience. Bacchetta played in two late-season games, punting four times and averaging 40 yards per kick. Meanwhile, Nwosu punted twice at Indiana.

Kick Returner

Penn State is set here with one of the most explosive athletes in the nation returning for his sophomore season. The Lions returned 20 kicks all season and Nicholas Singleton was responsible for 14 of those, most notably a 100-yard touchdown against Rutgers. Kaytron Allen, Omari Evans, and Daequan Hardy all returned two kicks apiece last season.

Punt Returner

While Penn State brings back every player who returned a kickoff, the same can’t be said for handling punts. Parker Washington was the primary man last year before his late-season injury. He had 18 for 99 yards, including a 30-yard return. Meanwhile, Mitchell Tinsley and Marquis Wilson filled in and did not bring much explosiveness to the spot.

Keep an eye out for who Stacy Collins has catching punts at tomorrow’s Blue/White Game. Evans, Hardy, and Kaden Saunders would seem to figure in here.

Kickoff Specialist

Nwosu, Sahaydak, and Pinegar split duties for much of the season before Pinegar finally fully took over the job midway through the year. Pinegar wound up with 36 of his 52 kickoffs going for touchbacks.

Nwosu and Sahaydak figure to be involved here again, but so too will redshirt sophomore punter Mitchell Groh.

Long Snapper

Penn State lost the nation’s top long snapper. Yes, Chris Stoll was bestowed that award after a fine career in blue and white.

Three long snappers are listed on the roster. So, keep an eye on the competition between Blaise Sokach-Minnick, Will Patton, and Tyler Duzansky. The less we think about those three, the better the season will have gone.