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Penn State Football’s Special Teams Unit Preparing For New Look

If you ask fans to list the most important elements of a successful football team, it might take a second for them to reach one of the specialists. Kickers, punters, and long snappers often go unnoticed — until something goes wrong, that is.

Despite the usually disproportionate scrutiny placed upon the team’s specialists, Penn State has had a consistent output from its specialists in recent years. Even after the January 2022 hiring of new special teams coordinator Stacy Collins, the Nittany Lions remained largely unshaken.

That has the potential to change as the team reaches an inflection point ahead of the 2023 season though.

Key starters at many special teams positions departed the team following the Rose Bowl. Veteran kicker Jake Pinegar announced he would forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. Starting punter and graduate transfer Barney Amor aged out of the program. Longtime long snapper Chris Stoll exited after six seasons.

Even the punt return unit took a hit, with all three players that logged punt return yardage set to spend 2023 elsewhere after one graduated, one joined the NFL Draft pool, and another reportedly entered the transfer portal.

Outside of the kick returner position, which true freshmen studs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen handled, the team’s departures leave consequential holes for Collins to fill. Pinegar finished his career as the Nittany Lions’ all-time leader in extra points. Amor secured the second-highest punt average in program history. Stoll earned the 2022 Mannelly Award, awarded to the nation’s best long snapper.

At Penn State’s pre-Rose Bowl media day in December, Collins expressed optimism about the unit’s depth and its upcoming spring development. As the offseason progresses, the second-year Nittany Lion coordinator will prepare to unveil a brand new look.

Here’s a quick glance at the fresh faces Penn State fans can expect to see.


There was speculation that rising redshirt sophomore kicker Sander Sahaydak would see more playing time in 2022. Instead, Pinegar received the overwhelming majority of snaps, and Sahaydak attempted just two field goals — one successful from 20 yards and an unsuccessful 50-yarder.

Joining him in the competition are Mitchell Groh, who has yet to log a snap with Penn State, and transfer Alex Felkins from Columbia.


Simultaneously, the punting room appears to have the least amount of clarity while also holding the most talent.

True freshman Alex Bacchetta participated in two games during the 2022 season, maintaining his redshirt status. Logging four punts on the year — and even briefly replacing Amor for performance against Rutgers before being benched himself — Bacchetta averaged an even 40 yards and landed three inside the 20-yard line.

Though Bacchetta was seen the most by Penn State this season, the path to starting punter will not be a coronation. Rising redshirt sophomore Gabe Nwosu and recent transfer Riley Thompson complicate the situation.

Both Nwosu and Thompson are still relative unknowns to the team, as only the former has punted in-game for Penn State. Even then, the 6’6″ specialist only earned two opportunities to punt in 2022, and neither of Nwosu’s punts eclipsed 40 yards.

Long Snapper

Three names Collins specifically floated in the past as potential Stoll replacements were Tyler Duzansky, Will Patton, and Blaise Sokach-Minnick.

“I’m excited to where that long snapper position is,” Collins said in December. “I’m excited to watch these guys compete as we go through spring.”

Neither Patton nor Sokach-Minnick participated in any games during 2022, which seems to indicate Duzansky is the favorite to earn the starting role.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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