Our yearly series concludes with a look at our special teams. Lando spoke about what we should be excited about the unit on Tuesday. Today, I tell you all the ways the special teams will lose Penn State at least two games this season, if not more.
With Jake Pinegar now gone, Penn State will have Sander Sahaydak, Columbia transfer Alex Felkins, and the hopes and prayers that one of them can turn into the consistent presence the Lions sorely need at kicker.
The Nittany Lions haven’t had consistent kicking since Jordan Stout was handling all the duties a couple of seasons ago, and, while 2022 wasn’t a disaster, inconsistency was the name of the game, with the departed Pinegar, and the returnee Sahaydak, missing some gimme field goal opportunities.
Punting faced consistency and reliability for even longer than kicking, with Barney Amor starting at punter in 2022, Stout taking both responsibilities until 2021, and Blake Gillikin doing a tremendous job of punting before that.
Now, Penn State will hope another transfer, Riley Thompson from Florida Atlantic, can continue the consistency the Lions have enjoyed in the punting game.
Once again, the Nittany Lions have enjoyed consistency in kickoffs for quite a while now. Most of this success has in part been due to the sharing of kicking duties the Lions have employed over the past several years. Who will take over the kickoff responsibilities in 2023? Gabriel Nwosu and Alex Bacchetta may split these duties to start (or maybe one of them will take over the punting job instead). Can they grow from the 2022 season? That we shall see.
Penn State’s special teams can continue to be a strength in 2023, but with as many unknowns as they have coming in, don’t be surprised if you see growing pains in kicking and punting to start the season.