Countdown To Blue-White: The Unsung Heroes Of Special Teams

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Long snapper and holder are likely the last positions that come to mind for any football fan. To most casual spectators of the sport, these two positions are completely irrelevant. If you ask a random fan on the street, it’s likely they wouldn’t be able to name who their favorite team’s snapper and holder are.

However, they are absolutely crucial factors to the special teams unit — and James Franklin wants to make that known.

“We all know that our kicker can knock the ball through the uprights,” Franklin said. “I think people underappreciate the consistency of the snapper and the holder.”

These positions are generally the ones you never notice when things are going well, but stick out like a sore thumb when things go wrong. A solid snap and hold is just as essential as the kick, whether it’s a punt or a field goal.

Consistency is key to be successful in football, especially at the Big Ten level. Penn State has been lucky to have long-time long snapper Tyler Yazujian over the last three seasons being that consistent cog on the special teams unit. With Yazujian graduating, Coach Franklin is searching for his replacement to be the anchor of the punt and field goal kicking units.

Right now, it looks like Kyle Vasey will be Yazujian’s successor as long snapper. Franklin has praised the junior during spring practices. “Vasey has done a tremendous job for us snapping the ball. We’ve been very pleased with him,” Franklin said.

Freshman punter Blake Gillikin also gave a vote of confidence for the potential new long snapper.

“Vasey’s doing a really good job. He’s got a lot of reps during the offseason and he’s performed in the weight room,” Gillikin said. “I’m looking forward to see how he handles the crowd at Beaver Stadium.”

The kicking unit spends a lot of time together working on its consistency and being able to build a chemistry. When Gillikin was asked about a crucial part of punting that people don’t see, he immediately brought up his work with his snapper.

“A lot of time behind the scenes goes in that people don’t see,” Gillikin said. “I’m in the weight room all the time with our snappers. Especially holding and catching punts.”

The holder for field goal kicks is also up in the air heading into the spring game. As it currently stands, Gillikin and back-up quarterback Billy Fessler are battling for the right to hold the ball for Tyler Davis. As long as the two remember “laces out,” Penn State shouldn’t have a problem with either guy.

Franklin has been vocal in multiple practices at media availability about these positions being something that no one wants to talk about. Here you go, Coach — the snapper and holder are finally getting some love.

Photo By: Arif Aminuddin
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Dylan Coughlin

Dylan is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism at Penn State. Growing up near Philadelphia, he's a life-long Philly sports fan who #TrustsTheProcess and thinks the Sixers will run the league in five years. You can follow him on Twitter @DCoughlin25 for some okay content or e-mail [email protected]

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