James Franklin the head coach of the Penn State football team often speaks about all three phases of the game. Offense, defense, and special teams need to play their role to win a football game. Prior to this season, there was some consistency year over year at long snapper, punter, and kicker, but this season the Nittany Lions will have three new faces at each of those positions.
That’s an area where the special teams unit will need to create some chemistry early in the season, because as we know the weather in October and November is unpredictable. Penn State needs to have consistent production from all three positions on special teams in order to achieve its goals this season.
New faces on special teams for Penn State football
Understanding that the team was replacing all three positions for the upcoming 2023 season, the Penn State football coaching staff dipped into the transfer portal to bring in experience and create competition heading into fall camp.
Starting with the placekicker, that battle will be between Sander Sahaydak and Columbia transfer Alex Felkins. Sahaydak finally got his opportunity to see the field last season, primarily as the kickoff specialist. He also connected on his first career field goal from 20 yards out against Rutgers last November. Felkins has loads of experience under his belt, he drilled 16 out of his 24 field goal attempts last season at Columbia with his longest field goal coming from 42 yards out. This could be a situation where Felkins is the winner of the job, but Sahaydak will be used in long-distance attempts.
At punter, the battle is between Alex Bacchetta and Flordia Atlantic transfer Riley Thompson. In conference play flipping the field position is so critical, this is another situation where it’s a battle between the highly talented player with limited experience in Baccetta and the veteran transfer who has tons of experience under his belt with Thompson. Last season Riley Thompson had 26 punters inside the 20-yard line at FAU. To me, it feels like Bacchetta will need to show some serious consistency in order to beat out Thompson.
Replacing the consistent long snapper
Long snapper feels like the more obvious choice, but replacing Chris Stoll is no easy task. Penn State was fortunate to have such consistency in the position from 2019-2022. Headed into the 2023 season it feels like it’s Tyler Duzansky’s job to lose. He appeared in 7 games during the 2022 season in a reserved role for the Nittany Lions.
This position is super challenging, I think a lot of fans take the longer snapper for granted but in critical moments the outcome of a football game can be decided based on a bad snap. One thing is for certain special teams coach Stacy Collins has a lot of evaluation to do with these position battles before the 2023 season kicks off.
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